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Why is this important?

Outside of the thread of the content of the course, instructors can help students see another thread: the awareness of how they are learning and interacting with any new ideas introduced. A technique for this is to find out what Aha! and Huh? moments your students might be experiencing.

  • The Ahas! represent connections students are having with the material, how ideas covered in class relate to prior knowledge and experiences they have had. Also, these Ahas! may reveal what new understanding they are gaining. Ahas! are pivotal learning moments when people are connecting mentally and emotionally with the material as well as reshaping any ideas or processes that they may already use. They can serve as motivational tools for others if students have a chance to voice them.
  • The Huhs? represent questions or reactions students may have to the content (or the delivery). By focusing attention on these moments, instructors can get students to reflect on how they are thinking and reacting as they engage—or disengage—during the learning process.

Strategies to try:

  • Build in time for students to express their Aha! and Huh? thoughts out loud, sharing these connections, reactions, and questions as a means of overtly thinking about how they are each learning.
    • Some online instructors create discussion topics for this, with a question prompt such as “Does [this module’s content] ring true in your own life? Give examples.”
    • Onsite teachers can distribute index cards for students to write down any of theses connections, confusions, personal reactions, or even epiphanies they experience during a lecture or demo. Instructors can take a moment directly after presenting key ideas to call on students, or collect the cards to review and discuss after the break or during the following class. Students may not volunteer their thoughts immediately, so model the process by recalling your own reactions to a particular idea and elicit more from the class. For reading or viewing assignments, have students not only summarize the content, but write personal connections or questions about what they read as if they are having a kind of dialogue with the author or presentation.
  • Previewing and creating guiding questions for students when you assign reading can help them tap into the AAh! and Huh? moments. Ideally, students can pre-read or preview new content before it is introduced in class. Then, the lecture or demo time is not the first exposure to new material. This time instead becomes used for an interactive review, where students discuss the new content that they read or viewed, and the instructor can guide them as they discuss these vital connections, confusions, and reactions they are experiencing. (Learn more: Flipping the Classroom)

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