Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)

Community College of Allegheny County

Student Engagement Tool Kit

Why Student Engagement?

When students are actively engaged they are more likely to learn, persist with their studies and attain their goals. The outcomes associated with student engagement align with the goals of Achieving the Dream: student progression, retention and success. As an Achieving the Dream institution, CCAC is committed to helping more students reach their goals.

The tool kit was created by members of the Achieving the Dream committee to provide simple techniques that can be easily applied in the classroom to improve student engagement in five areas.

Active and Collaborative Learning—the extent to which students participate in class, interact with other students and extend learning outside the classroom.

Student Effort—time on task, preparation and use of student services.

Academic Challenge—the extent to which students engages in challenging mental activities and the quantity and rigor of their academic work.

Student-Faculty Interaction—Student-faculty interaction is one of the most powerful forms of student engagement.  It is strongly related to long-term persistence measures like the number of terms enrolled and the number of credit hours completed. CCSSE defines student-faculty interaction as the extent to which students and faculty communicate about academic performance, career plans, course content and assignments.  This is a collection of resources for encouraging more meaningful interactions with students.

Support for Learners—students’ perceptions of their college and its services.

  • Ultimate Pocket Guide to Student Services
    The Ultimate Pocket Guide to Student Services is designed to assist students and faculty with essential information about Student Services at each of the College’s campuses. For example, information is available on Academic Advising, Financial Aid, Student Accounts, The Child Development Center, etc.
  • Early Intervention
    CCAC’s Online Early Intervention is a web based system that allows faculty members to refer struggling students for assistance via a secure website. The student support staff members who receive these referrals attempt to contact the students in order to connect them to college resources.

To access this service, log onto and click on the CCAC Central E-services button, enter user ID and password and choose Early Intervention.

  • Best Practices for Servicing Students with Disabilities
    A needs-based best practices professional development program for teaching students with learning disabilities in the community college setting. This online assessment tool developed in collaboration with Landmark College, CCAC and four other community colleges is now available for distribution. Be one of the first in the country to explore the best practices modules and expand your knowledge of the delivery of education services.  To receive the online access and password information, please contact Sumana Misra-Zets ( at Byers 316 or at ext. 4535.

If you have an idea you would like to add to the tool kit, please contact Mary Kate Quinlan

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Think, Pair, Share

Think, pair, share is a simple technique for generating group discussion. It allows students to state their views and hear the views of others without dedicating a lot of class time to group work.


  • Pose a question
  • Ask students to discuss possible answers with a partner
  • Share the results with the class

Other Uses—This technique is a useful way to identify prior knowledge when introducing a topic. Ask students to discuss what they know about the topic at the start of class. It could also be combined with the “Muddiest Point” at the end of a session. Ask students to discuss the least clear or most confusing aspect of the lesson.

Memory Matrix

The memory matrix is a simple table used to organize information and illustrate relationships. It assesses recall of information and the ability to organize that information.


  • Create a table with row and column headings for organizing important information

    Example from Classroom Assessment Techniques


Spanish Verb Ending







Irregular verbs


Regular verbs


  • Test the matrix to ensure there is a good fit between the row and column headings
  • Ask students to complete the memory matrix. (This is a good exercise for small groups)
  • Provide feedback to the class after reviewing the results

This technique works well in introductory courses. It can be used after lectures, reading assignments or presentation. (For more information about the memory matrix, including examples, see page 142 in Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross available in the campus libraries.)

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Tossed Salad

Tossed salad is a technique used by facilitators to ensure participation in meetings. This adaptation could be used at the beginning of the semester as a way to involve students in defining the expectations for student effort.

  • Ask students to read the material about student effort on the CCSSE website
  • Ask them to identify good behaviors associated with student effort—something they would be willing to commit to for the duration of the semester
  • Pass out small slips of paper and have the students record one idea on each slip
  • When the students have finished writing, put the slips of paper in an inexpensive bowl or empty box and “toss the salad”
  • Pass the “bowl” around the room and ask students to take out one slip of paper for each idea they put in
  • Go around the room and share ideas, discussing good ideas for defining student effort
  • Create a list of agreed upon behaviors for student effort

Students will have a better understanding of the behaviors expected of them if they have a chance to participate in the discussion.

Minute Paper and Muddiest Point

Ask students to provide brief written responses to one or two questions.  Students write their anonymous responses on index cards or half-sheets of paper.

  • What was the most important thing you learned during this lecture/assignment/project? (Variations: What was the best example of…?  What was the best argument for or against…?  Who is the most memorable character in… and why?  What is the single most significant reason…?)
  • What is the muddiest point in…?  (Variations: What remains unclear?  What important question remains unanswered?  What is most confusing about…?)

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