When I first began creating and teaching online higher education courses, I searched scholarly journals, instructional design resources, and quality standards for insights and guidance.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Because I teach mixed demographic courses, I often look out at a sea of distracted and unmotivated faces. Motivation is a large part of learning (Pintrich and deGroot, 2003). So, I use active learning activities, such as think-pair-share, to not only motivate students (Marbach-Ad et al., 2001), but also to enhance student learning (Bonwell and Eison, 1919; Freeman et al., 2014). If I’m being honest, active learning also has the added perk of distracting students from the monotony of my voice. Yet, in the past few years, I have begun to wonder if I have taken it too far? Am I simply using active learning as a way of keeping bored students active?
Looking to incorporate some learner-centered teaching principles into your courses but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are 10 activities for building student engagement and getting students more actively involved in their learning.
Have you ever wondered if your students are as concerned about their learning as you are? If you prioritize student learning, you may be the only person in your classroom with that goal. Learning-centered teachers seek to coauthor classroom experiences with their students, whereas students may seek only to be taught passively. How might you inspire your students to share accountability for their learning? These five considerations can help you teach your students to be learning centered, too.
Those who teach in the health disciplines expect their students to retain and apply every iota of learned material. However, many students come to us having achieved academic success by memorizing the content, regurgitating that information onto an exam, and promptly forgetting a good portion of it. In health, as well as other disciplines where new material builds upon the material from the previous semesters, it is critical for students to retain what they learn throughout their coursework and as they begin their careers as a nurse, engineer, elementary teacher, etc.
It’s hard to say—we have no definitive measures of learner-centeredness or even mutually agreed upon definitions. And yet, when we talk about it, there’s an assumption that we all understand the reference.
My friend Linda recently gave me a beautifully illustrated children’s book that contains nothing but questions. It reminded me how good questions, like beams of light, cut through the fog and illuminate what was once obscured. And so, to help us further explore and understand what it means to be learner-centered, I’ve generated a set of questions. For the record, these questions were not empirically developed, and they haven’t been validated in any systematic way. However, they do reflect the characteristics regularly associated with learner-centered teaching.
We already do give students some choices. We let them choose paper topics, decide what to do for group projects, select subjects for artwork—and we’ve seen them struggle to make those choices. Most students don’t see selecting content as an opportunity to explore an area of interest, but rather an added burden of now trying to figure out what the teacher wants.
When I tell people that I study the role of communication in teaching and learning, the most common response is: “Isn’t communication just common sense? I’m an expert in what I teach; why do I need to worry about how I communicate?” In reality, communication is a learned verbal and nonverbal skill that all of us must continually refine. When we interact with our students purposefully, we maximize the chances that our content expertise will make a positive difference in terms of their learning.
Most of us think we know what active learning is. The word engagement quickly comes to mind. Or, we describe what it isn’t: passive learning. Definitions also abound. The one proposed by Bonwell and Eison in an early (and now classic) active learning monograph is widely referenced: involving “students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing.” (p. 2)
At its most basic level, the syllabus is used to communicate information about the course, the instructor, learning objectives, assignments, grading policies, due dates, the university’s academic integrity statement, and, in some cases, an increasingly long list of strongly worded admonitions on what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in the college classroom.