students in library November 30, 2015

Problem-Based Learning: Six Steps to Design, Implement, and Assess

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Twenty-first century skills necessitate the implementation of instruction that allows students to apply course content, take ownership of their learning, use technology meaningfully, and collaborate. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is one pedagogical approach that might fit in your teaching toolbox.


students in group discussion August 8, 2012

Five Characteristics of Learner-Centered Teaching

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In May I finished a second edition of my Learner-Centered Teaching book. Revising it gave me the chance to revisit my thinking about the topic and look at work done since publication of the first edition ten years ago. It is a subject about which there is still considerable interest. The learner-centered label now gets attached to teaching strategies, teachers, classes, programs, departments and institutions. Like many trendy descriptors in higher education, with widespread use comes a certain definitional looseness. Active learning, student engagement and other strategies that involve students and mention learning are called learner-centered. And although learner-centered teaching and efforts to involve students have a kind of bread and butter relationship, they are not the same thing. In the interest of more definitional precision, I’d like to propose five characteristics of teaching that make it learner-centered.


August 2, 2012

Are We Preaching to the Choir about Student-Centered Learning Practices?

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I’d like to report on a nonscientific study I have been conducting, without human-subjects approval or even a clear research plan. This won’t make it into the research journals, but the results are still compelling.

My “study” has been continuous for over two years. During that time, I have made numerous trips, at random times, from my administrative office to a building on the opposite corner of campus. For nearly three months, I made the round trip twice a day or more. Every time, I have walked through the ground floor of our main general classroom building, which has about 14 classrooms, mostly 30- to 50-person rooms, but also with one 120-person tiered lecture hall. The classrooms are assigned to courses covering a wide range of disciplines, mostly first- or second-year classes.


July 18, 2012

Do Your Students Understand the Material, or Just Memorize and Forget?

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Have you ever heard of Eric Mazur? If you teach physics and are into that discipline’s pedagogical literature, in all likelihood you have. But Mazur, who teaches physics at Harvard, is someone all of us should know. The reference at the end of the post contains a succinct and compelling introduction to his work.


June 18, 2012

Students Share Their Thoughts on Active Learning

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“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.”
– A. Chickering and Z.F. Gamson, “Seven principles for good practice,” AAHE Bulletin 39 (March 1987), 3-7.



July 15, 2011

A Learner-Centered Approach Affects Student Motivation

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Most of the time research evidence grows by bits and pieces—not all at once, and the evidence documenting the effectiveness of learner-centered approaches is no exception. It continues to accumulate, as illustrated by this study. It occurred in a third-year pharmacotherapy course in a doctor of pharmacy program. The students were randomly assigned to five- and six-member groups, with each group being assigned a patient case with multiple drug-related problems.


June 1, 2011

Changing the Way We Teach: Making the Case for Learner-Centered Teaching

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“Why should we change the way we teach?” a marketing professor asked with an honest gaze and a smile that bespoke sincerity. It was early in a workshop session just after I’d introduced the idea of learner-centered teaching and explained why students should be doing more of the learning tasks themselves.