Tips for College Educators: How to Hold Students’ Attention?

By Melissa Burns

Young students have a lot to think about: tests, friends, lunch, family, and many other things that are getting in the way of the lecture they should be listening to. When you add smartphones and messaging apps on top of everything, the problem with attention deficit in the class seems impossible to solve.

Among all life lessons teachers have the responsibility to instill, self-control and commitment are the most important ones. According to a common belief, the average attention span of a typical university student is between 10 and 15 minutes. This period is even shorter with younger students, so their teachers have to rely on different “tricks” that will bring the pupils back to reality.

Interactive Techniques Are Efficient for Improvement of Students’ Attention Span

The first and most important advantage of interactive teaching methods is the ability of the educator to assess whether or not the students are paying attention. The new classroom environment imposes interactivity as the only technique that enables students to take an active part in the learning process.

One of the most important educational reforms, implemented with the goal to individualize the interaction between students and teachers, is class-size reduction. Due to the individual attention each student gets in a smaller class, low achievers can improve their attention span through daily commitment and greater participation in discussions.

Among all improvements the educational system has gained through this reform, the establishment of a strong foundation for learning in primary grades is the most important one. The smaller class provides opportunities for teachers to experiment with new methods and share their knowledge in a way that all students can accept. Technology is an integral part of the efforts to make the modern classroom more productive.

Since today’s students consider technology to be an integral part of their daily routines, different tools can be successfully implemented into interactive teaching methods with the purpose to increase the average attention span in class.

Effective Interactive Techniques for Boosting Students’ Attention Span

There are several teaching and evaluation methods that enable instructors to share the knowledge in a way that would increase students’ interest. Not all of them are applicable in every classroom, so you need to assess the collective potential and interest in the classroom before implementing a particular interactive method. Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong in experimenting. The following educational techniques will improve the overall effectiveness in the classroom:

  1. 1.     Active teaching

If you simply cover the textbook material in class without any expectations for the learners to participate in the process, you will have a classroom of bored students who won’t remember a single sentence of your lecture. These are some of the methods you can use in order to make your approach more fun:

  • Ask rhetorical questions and allow your students to think for 20 seconds before answering. Don’t be too harsh on them; allow them to be creative in this problem-solving process and try to inspire a discussion after an answer.
  • Use picture prompts. Show images related to the concepts you are teaching, and ask your students to explain them.
  • Infuse some pop culture in your lectures. You can hold students’ attention by asking them to relate the lessons to popular pop stars, events, commercials, games, or anything else they can infiltrate into the lesson.
  1. 2.     Individual participation

The purpose of a small class is to pay attention to each and every student. This is one of the most effective techniques that will help you evaluate a student’s potential and attention span:

  • Assign one-minute papers in which the students should write the most important thing they learned that day. These short projects shouldn’t affect the final grade. With time, the one-minute papers will inspire them to try harder to remember the things you are teaching.
  1. 3.     Teamwork

Enabling your students to work in pairs or groups is a very effective trick to increase their attention span.

  • After a lecture, divide the class into few groups, assign a topic and inspire a discussion. Give them some time to coordinate, and then tell them to agree or disagree with the particular issue.


  • Group brainstorming enables students to benefit from each other’s creativity. Assign team projects and enable the students to complete them during class.

4.     Digital tools

Many old-school teachers perceive the increased exposure to technology as a change that negatively affects students’ attention span, but edTech apps and tools can boost their potential to absorb and memorize information.

  • Facebook and Twitter can literally serve as discussion boards that will make your students more comfortable to participate.


  • YouTube is a great source of video materials you can present in the classroom. In addition, you can inspire your students to create videos though a team projects, and upload them on YouTube for the class to see.


  • Educational games are great attention span boosters. Find games that are appropriate for your students’ age, and make their days at school more fun.

5.     Online tests

Students love spending time online. You can use that inclination into your advantage and assign an online literature test from Assignment Masters at a scheduled time. This can be an individual or team project, but make sure to explain your expectations and give your students enough time to prepare for the assignment.

Author’s bio:

Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented in the sphere of education. You may contact Melissa:

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