Student Engagement and Rapport

SFQ Questions

The following statements/questions could be asked for student feedback.

The faculty member:

  1. Is engaging during the presentation of course material.
  2. Contributes to my comfort in asking questions during and/or after class.
  3. Contributes to my comfort in expressing opinions during and/or after class.
  4. Encourages my participation in a variety of ways.
  5. Encourages the production of quality work.
  6. Manages class behaviour in a manner that contributes to a comfortable learning environment.
  7. Communicates in a manner that is respectful and professional.
  8. Contributes to an environment that promotes inclusivity and equity.

Creating a comfortable learning environment, demonstrating authentic leadership, promoting mutual respect, engaging in classroom community building, and supporting inclusivity and equity will increase student engagement and improve your rapport, improving scores in this section in the SFQ.

Creating a positive and inclusive learning environment will contribute to a class experience that is engaging and enjoyable. This should be established at the beginning of the semester to allow for the maximum potential for your class. A recent survey was issued to a group of students to determine how they felt that professors best set a positive environment in their classroom. Key aspects include:

Creating a Comfortable Classroom (Q15; Q16)

Creating a Comfortable Classroom 

Creating a comfortable learning environment, where students feel safe to take academic risk helps to mitigate undesirable classroom behaviours (Q16). To ensure all students feel respected and included, set expectations for conduct and respect right from the first class. This strategy also encourages the production of quality work (Q15), as students are more likely to attempt to produce high quality work when they feel comfortable, respected and acknowledged (Kiener et al., 2014).  

Strategies you may consider:  

  • When introducing yourself, indicate how you would like students to address you, both in the classroom and via email. This allows students to know how to approach you with confidence. Remember: some students will always address you formally, so it is important to respect that decision in order to nurture a positive relationship. 
  • Consider using an ice breaker for students to get to know each other – and you! Participate in the ice breaker alongside your student to allow your class to get to know you! Ice breakers can be done during in-person classes, as well as online. 
  • Review the key parts of the course outline including expectations pertaining to late assignments, missed tests and classroom expectations. Awareness of these expectations from the start supports a positive academic journey and reduces confusion as the semester progresses. 
  • Talk to your class about the classroom being a safe space. Ask what a safe space would look like for them? What behaviours, words or actions would compromise that feeling of safety? Discuss what is expected for mutual respect and model that. 
  • Consider creating a classroom contract to ensure expectations for behaviour are established; for example, ensuring confidentiality when sharing individual experiences.  

Authentic Leadership (Q11; Q12; Q13)

Being your authentic self when teaching is both engaging (Q11) and encourages students be themselves which can increase classroom comfort (Q12) and therefore contribution (Q13) (Kiener et al., 2014).

This can be a challenge for both new and seasoned educators. Consider starting with the following:

  • Show your personality, use humour, be yourself. Demonstrating that you are human, takes away some of the apprehension a student may feel when approaching a faculty member, it shows the students that you do understand what they are going through.
  • Do not be afraid to admit when you have made a mistake. For example, if you stated the wrong fact, acknowledge the error, correct the mistake, and move on. This demonstrates to the students that it is okay to make mistakes in your classroom. Likewise, admit it if you don’t know the answer to a student question but assure them that you will find out the answer and share it with them. In a student survey completed in winter 2023, students (n=8) highlighted that this made faculty more relatable. 
  • Show your love for the subject you are teaching. If you are passionate, you will be able to ignite that enthusiasm within your students.

Mutual Respect (Q12; Q13; Q14; Q15; Q17)

Communicating in a manner that is respectful and professional is vital to creating a positive learning environment (Q17). Mutual respect supports students in encouraging participation (Q14); contributes to comfort in asking questions (Q12) and expressing opinions (Q13), while encouraging participation (Q14). This strategy also supports encourages the production of quality work (Q15), as a student who feels comfortable, respected, and acknowledged are more likely to attempt to produce high quality work (Kiener et al., 2014).

Demonstrating respect for your students goes beyond your verbal and body language. Consider the importance of:

  • Rewarding and showing appreciation for student contributions in class, even if they are not perfect
    • When students know their participation is valued, they will continue to participate, and when they know that it’s okay to put forth an uncertain or incorrect response, and not be ridiculed, they will feel safe to take that academic risk again.
  • Varying your options for participation and activities to capture the voices of students who may not be comfortable speaking during class.
    • Add a DC Connect discussion board for students who do not want to ask questions during class and create a Padlet that can be used during class for introverted students to contribute to or communicate through.
  • Maintaining consistency in your out of class assistance availability.
    • Knowing that questions can be answered outside of class demonstrates your dedication to your students and their learning, consequently students will be more likely to seek help when needed.
    • Respond to emails in a timely fashion, with fulsome answers. However, be sure to establish expectations around response times. In a student survey completed in Winter 2023, students (n=8) highlighted that this made students feel valued.
  • Being fair and consistent
    • Students value knowing that they are being treated consistently and equitably. Providing detailed explanations for decisions or actions supports student understanding and acceptance.

How we perceive student requests will set the stage for our response, and being aware of that is important in ensuring your communication with students remains professional. If we perceive the request as being inconsiderate, our tone and approach will be defensive. McKinney (2005) reminds readers that while the “oy vey” students may seem to be disrespectful of the faculty members’ time and effort, it is often unintentional as students are in a “me first” mind set, particularly at certain times of the semester or when they are feeling particularly stressed. Recognize that your stress level increases and decreases, as does that of your students, and is often precipitated by predictable events and times in the semester such as during semester tests and holidays.

Stepping back and keeping this mind as you proceed throughout the semester may be helpful, and modeling a professional response will improve student communication.

Classroom Community Building (Q12; Q13; Q15; Q16)

It is important that students feel comfortable to ask questions, express opinions and contribute to class discussions in a supportive learning environment; therefore, building a classroom community is critical.

There are some easy, yet effective ways to do this:

  • Start class with an activity that builds a sense of community, such as a brief open discussion on current events, sharing of good news or conducting informal polls on student preferences.
    • In a synchronous online class, join 5 minutes early and play music, or ask a fun question where there are two opposing viewpoints (think pineapple on pizza) or have students pin their dream travel location on the Padlet map;
    • Use connection activities that encourage conversation among students, such as providing four pictures related to the content and trying to determine how they fit.
  • Demonstrate the same respect for students’ time as you would expect them to extend to you. Start and end class on time, and provide meaningful opportunities for questions and clarification;
  • Consider enacting classroom behaviour management as needed to contribute to a comfortable learning environment for all
  • Get to know your students' names. Even recognizing and acknowledging faces in the hallway makes students feel valued and creates a sense of belonging. In a student survey completed in winter 2023, students (n=8) highlighted that a wave in the hallway made them feel welcome.
  • Ask for informal feedback regularly from students
    • When students feel that you value their opinion, they will be motivated to share it. Consider using a Start, Stop, Continue survey or creating an informal survey to ensure that you and the classroom continue to support the needs of the students.

          Inclusivity and Equity in the Classroom (Q12; Q13; Q14; Q15; Q16; Q17; Q18)

          Inclusion and equity in the classroom are imperative for students to be successful. Included below are some ideas of ways to promote inclusion and equity in your classroom.

          • Consider applying practices outlined in the Equity Diversity and Inclusion in Pedagogy and Practice module available in the DC Connect self-registration portal.
          • Include more diverse course material, speak in non-binary gender language, and provide representation of all students in your examples, slides, photos, case studies, etc.
            • Consider using “Joe and Jasmeet” instead of “Jack and Jill” in case studies, examples or explanations.
          • Create a learning environment where the classroom community does not rely on assumptions about gender pronouns (e.g., avoid stereotypes about men and women, do not make assumptions about what students are like based on their gender, or refrain from using gendered language such as “the man in the last row” or “ladies and gentlemen”);
            • Consider how you can be inclusive with your gender pronouns when developing course content and delivering courses. The University of Waterloo provides and excellent resource on Gender Pronouns and Teaching such as avoiding assuming a student's pronouns.
            • If you make an error, politely apologize, correct to the student’s lived pronoun, and move on. Try, “I’m sorry: I meant to say ‘they,” or even quicker, “Apologies: they.” A big apology or spending more than a brief moment clarifying the pronouns of your student can make everyone feel uncomfortable and awkward (University of Waterloo).
          • Consider language not focused on traditional nuclear family, such as “your chosen family” “the people in your life” vs. “parents”;

          For more information, please reach out to the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

          This content was adapted from Creative Commons 4.0, Inclusive Teaching And Learning Staff, Equity and Inclusion Office at the University of British Columbia.

          Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles

          Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is set of guidelines and principles that support access and inclusivity in teaching and learning. They allow your content to be more accessible to all students in the classroom by encouraging

          • multiple means of engagement (getting students interested in the content),
          • representation (using multiple ways to understand the content), and
          • action and expression (providing options when demonstrating their learning).

          Providing students with choice in how they learn and the option to demonstrate their learning in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them will increase student engagement and interest in the course.

          Refer to the CTL page on UDL for more information and suggestions for incorporation.


          It is important to design and review course materials to ensure accessibility. This includes colours, font type and size, layout, and alternative text for images or graphics. The Learning Portal provides step-by-step resources.

          Mindful Indigenous Practices

          Consider educating yourself by enroling in the Ingenious Histories and Reconciliation modules in DC Connect self-registration portal. These modules are also available for student self-registration.

          • Consider learning more about the indigenization statement at DC and accessing services from the First Peoples Indigenous Centre for your class and promoting educational opportunities and events to your students.
          • Incorporate a land acknowledgment: include a statement at the start of your class in person, and on DC Connect a template page is available for customizing your land acknowledgement by using “Select a Document”, then “Template-For-Land-Acknowledgement”.
          • Consult with the CTL to determine ways to support Indigenization of your curriculum, or explore resources such as Simon Fraser University’s various in-class and assessment examples as well as resources on indigenizing the curriculum.
          • Select appropriate terminology. For example, avoid “native”, “Indian”, or “aboriginal” and be mindful about colloquialisms such as“walk about” or “pow wow” when use is unrelated to indigenous practices.
          • Consider including indigenous voices and experiences in your courses and use examples which respectfully incorporate indigenous cultures
          • Invite guest speakers from the indigenous community where relevant and appropriate. Consult FPIC for resources on appropriate invitation practices.
              • Where possible, provide students with the opportunity to express their learning (i.e., complete an assessment) in a way that is relevant and meaningful for them, but still meets the required outcomes of the assessment.Example: an assignment for a nursing class asked students to discuss the uses, contraindications and side effects of different heart medications. Some students wrote it out as a text description or organized text into a chart, other students created mind/concept maps or pamphlets, and yet others created video recordings
              • Consider self-registration in DC’s Universal Design for Learning: Inspiring Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education
              • Various EdTech Tools are available through the CTL to support teaching and application of concepts in various ways, including Kahoot, Mentimeter and Padlet.
              • Consider your course content and determine if a flipped classroom/pre-lab approach would be beneficial. In a flipped or pre-lab classroom, faculty have students work with the materials in advance, usually online, and use the face-to-face time to reinforce, apply and extend the content in practical and hands on ways, which may include practice problems or simulations that demonstrate the application of the theoretical knowledge.

              Student-to-student approach:

              • Learner Centered Classroom - Consider using aspects within your teaching rooted in constructivism, which posits that learners utilize their previous experiences to build knowledge (Kurt, 2021). By allowing students to bring their own experiences to the classroom and activate prior learning, they will be able to make connections and retain more of the knowledge being presented and thus increase their success.For example: As part of the class connection activity, ask students to share their thoughts on the topic. This could be accomplished in a Kahoot or Mentimeter word cloud, or Padlet parking lot
              • Student co-creation - Consider using the students as an integral part of the content design process such as creating resources that can be utilized in the future (e.g., video resource, infographic, review questions).