active learning activities
When I was in college (for 12 years I might add) there were really only three sources of information available to students: 1) Instructor 2) Textbook 3) Library. This was not such a distant past. A mere two decades ago I finished my undergrad, and I graduated with my PhD in 2001. I don’t think learning, or even how we learn, has changed all that much since then. But what has changed is access to information and how that access might actually distract from learning.
Online instructors face the challenges of keeping a course up to date, engaging students, and maintaining integrity. Having students generate some of the course content can address all three of these challenges.
Introverts. Who are they and how do we ensure they thrive in active learning classrooms? If you have ever come to the midterm point of the semester and graded a stellar paper of a student whose name you don’t recognize and who has never raised her hand in class, you may have just identified an introvert in your classroom.
The Internet flipped learning before instructors did. Want to find out something? Google it. Wikipedia it. Use your laptop or smartphone or iPad. That’s where the “answers” are. Some of us initially reacted to this cyber-democratization of information asserting, “This isn’t right! The Internet is full of incomplete and simply wrong information.” But the challenge to the classroom was more profound. It has raised questions among students and even administrators about the need for face-to-face classrooms at all, as if correct information and unchallenged “opinions” were all that was needed.
Introductory courses are packed with content. Teachers struggle to get through it during class; students struggle to master it outside of class. Too often learning consists of memorizing material that’s used on the exam but not retained long after. Faculty know they should use more strategies that engage students, but those approaches take time and, in most courses, that’s in very short supply.
From Passive Viewing to Active Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos
From Web-enhanced face-to-face courses to MOOCs, flipped, blended, and fully online courses, videos are an integral component of today’s educational landscape—from kindergarten all the way through higher education.
It’s probably the question I’m most asked in workshops on learner-centered teaching. “What are some good places to start? My students aren’t used to learner-centered approaches.” Sometimes the questioner is honest enough to add, “and I haven’t used many previously.” Before the specifics, here’s some general recommendations: start slowly (for example, don’t add 14 learner-centered strategies to a mostly lecture course); try simple, reasonably straightforward activities first; and define success before implementing the activity. As for those “good places” to begin infusing your teaching with learner-centered strategies, here are some approaches to try.
In reviewing the research on active learning in statistics, the authors of the article cited below, who are statistics faculty themselves, found some research in which certain active learning experiences did not produce measurable gains on exam performance. They “suspect the key components of successful active learning approaches are using activities to explain concepts and requiring students to demonstrate that they understand these concepts by having them answer very specific rather than general questions.” (p. 3)
Can we reform teaching and learning throughout higher education one class at a time? I used to think so, but the pace of change has made me less optimistic. I just finished preparing an article for The Teaching Professor newsletter that reports the results of a survey of 744 full- and part-time faculty teaching at eight two-year technical colleges across Georgia. The researchers presented the respondents with a list of 18 instructional strategies and asked them to identify how often they used each one in their last 10 class sessions. Over 90% of the respondents said they lectured for four or more class sessions with more than 50% of those saying they lectured during all 10 class sessions.
Lectures are still a valuable pedagogical tool, but sometimes lectures are more effective when you use them a little less often and intersperse them with some other tools and techniques. Even slightly shifting the balance of classes can lead to better outcomes for students and, ultimately, better evaluations for you.