There is a vast pedagogical literature spelling out the benefits of student engagement and active participation (1). A recent meta-analysis study of 225 active learning
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“A threshold concept is discipline-specific, focuses on understanding of the subject and … has the ability to transform learners’ views of the content.” (Zepke, p. 98) It’s not the same as a core concept, although that’s a useful place to first put the idea. “A core concept is a conceptual ‘building block’ that progresses understanding of the subject; it has to be understood, but it does not necessarily lead to a qualitative different view of the subject matter.” (Meyer and Land, p. 4)
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.
Student engagement is another of those buzz phrases popular in higher education. As with many regularly used terms, everyone assumes we are talking about the same thing; but when asked for definitions, either we are hard pressed to come up one or what’s offered is a decidedly different collection of definitions. Here’s an article that includes clear definitions and, based on a creative synthesis of research, offers 10 ways to promote student engagement.
Often these questions are raised about courses using learner-centered approaches: What if this is the only learner-centered course taken by the student? Is one course enough to make a difference?
There is growing evidence that courses with learner-centered approaches—those approaches that use active learning strategies to engage students directly in learning processes—enhance academic achievement and promote the development of important learning skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to cooperatively work with others. But does the experience of being made responsible for learning transcend that individual course?
The first indication that the Millennial Generation may be different from previous generations is to consider how many different names we have for the generation and the people who belong to it. They’re referred to as Generation Y, Nexters, Baby Boom Echo Generation, Echo Boomers, Digital Natives, Generation Next, Generation Me and, of course, Millennials.
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.
Would you let your students decide when you hold office hours?
How about whether projects are worth more points than exams, or vice versa?
Would you let your students decide some of the topics that will be covered in the course?
Since Barr and Tagg introduced the concept of the instructional versus the learner-centered paradigms in 1995, higher education institutions across the country have adopted the concept in one form or another in an attempt to create learning environments that respond both to the changing profile of our students and recent research on learning with the ultimate goal of improving student success.