STEM students working on a problem. August 15, 2016

Teaching Quantitative Problem-Solving Skills Lies in the Solution

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Editor’s Note: One of the themes that emerged from our recent Faculty Focus reader survey was a request for more articles specifically related to teaching in the STEM disciplines. In response, we are pleased to present an article written by true leaders in STEM education and the authors of Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide (Jossey-Bass, 2016). As its name suggests, the book focuses on the practical application of research-based strategies for designing and teaching STEM courses. It has been called “hands-down the best instruction manual for professors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that you can find.” [Barbara Oakley, PhD]


female professor in front of white board July 11, 2016

Five Time-Saving Strategies for the Flipped Classroom

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A few months ago, I heard a podcast by Michael Hyatt, a best-selling author and speaker who helps clients excel in their personal and professional lives. This particular podcast focused on how to “create margins” in life to reduce stress and avoid burnout. Quoting Dr. Richard Swenson’s work, Hyatt defines a margin as “the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. . . . Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion. . . . Margin is the opposite of overload.”


students working in a group June 13, 2016

Managing In-Class Learning Experiences in Flipped Classrooms

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In this ongoing series focused on flipped and active-learning classrooms, we’re taking a deeper look into how to create successful learning experiences for students. We’ve examined how to encourage students to complete pre-class work, how to hold students accountable for pre-class work, and how to connect pre-class work to in-class activities. Now let’s focus on the challenge of managing the in-person learning environment.


Student in lecture hall June 3, 2015

More Evidence That Active Learning Trumps Lecturing

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The June-July issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter highlights a study you don’t want to miss. It’s a meta-analysis of 225 studies that compare STEM classes taught using various active learning approaches with classes taught via lecture. “The results indicate that average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sessions, and that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning.” (p. 8410) Carl Wieman, a Nobel-winning physicist who now does research on teaching and learning, describes the work as a “massive effort” that provides “a much more extensive quantitative analysis of the research on active learning in college and university STEM courses than previously existed.” (p. 8319) And what does he make of these results? “The implications of these meta-analysis results for instruction are profound, assuming they are indicative of what could be obtained if active learning methods replaced the lecture instruction that dominates U.S. postsecondary STEM instruction.” (pp. 8319-8320) That’s a long way from the guarded language usually found in commentaries on scientific results.


May 20, 2013

From Passive Viewing to Active Learning: Simple Techniques for Applying Active Learning Strategies to Online Course Videos

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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.


November 13, 2012

A New Way to Help Students Learn Course Vocabulary

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Most college students struggle with the vocabulary of our disciplines. In their various electronic exchanges, they do not use a lot of multisyllabic, difficult-to-pronounce words. And virtually all college courses are vocabulary rich—unfamiliar words abound. Most students know that the new vocabulary in a course is important. They use flash cards and other methods to help them memorize the words and their meanings for their exams. Two days later, the words and their meanings are gone.


September 25, 2012

A Call for Engaged Teaching

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As I left my desk to attend the faculty development workshop, I picked up four thank-you cards for the rotations program, a report to read, and a newsletter to edit. I’ve been to dozens of development seminars, and I’ve learned to be prepared with something else to do in case the presenter is mind-numbingly boring. The pleasant surprise of the morning was that the speaker engaged us in learning for more than three hours! How did he do that?


June 20, 2012

Five Reasons Getting Students to Talk is Worth the Effort

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“I just don’t see how students learn anything when they talk to each other,” a faculty member told me recently. “Their conversations are so superficial. They get things wrong. I can hardly stand to listen to them.”

Although I don’t agree, I can understand the feelings. Students talk about content as novices; faculty discuss it as experts. Novices do talk about things superficially, incorrectly and not very systematically. And those types of exchanges do cause experts all kinds of consternation. But there are good reasons to let students talk about course content. Here are five.


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.


April 3, 2012

Active-Learning Ideas for Large Classes: Simple to Complex

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The article that proposes these active-learning strategies is written for faculty who teach large-enrollment biology courses. But large courses share many similarities, and strategies often work well with a variety of content. Even so, most strategies need to be adapted so that they fit well with the instructor’s style, the learning needs of the students, and the configuration of course content.