Help your students stay awake in class

Sean Heuston, writing in a recent issue of College Teaching, gives his students some simple ways to stay awake during class—surely a pressing concern for many students, and teachers. Heuston drove trucks when he was a college student, and learned a number of “trucker tips” that he now passes along to his students. These include lifting a leg three inches off the floor, or an arm three inches off the table, or merely standing up. His main point is that “muscle tension and muscle activity will keep them awake, which is why no matter how tired they are they will not fall asleep while walking to class.”

Heuston explains this concept on the first day of class, and lets students know that he understands that they are often running on very little sleep. He invites them, at any time during class throughout the term, to stand up if they feel like they are getting drowsy. He tells them he’d much prefer a class full of standing students to one full of sleeping, or even just sleepy, students.

The idea is a good one, not least because it takes the stigma away from tired students. And by acknowledging that students may have legitimate reasons to be tired, teachers can establish a rapport between themselves and their students, laying the foundation for a pedagogical relationship that is worth staying awake for.

Source: Sean Heuston. "Trucker Tips: Helping Students Stay Awake in Class." College Teaching 61.3: 2013. 108.