A review of the research on active learning compiled for physiology faculty contains five “key findings” that author Joel Michael maintains ought “to be incorporated [into] our thinking as we make decisions about teaching physiology [I would say, name your discipline] at any educational level.” (p. 160) Here’s the list, along with a brief discussion of each.
Teaching and Learning
Blended learning course design, a deliberate combination of face-to-face and online learning, requires a shift in thinking in what it means to teach and what it means to learn.
You should know that evidence supporting learning styles is being challenged. Find below the reference for a research article authored by a respected collection of educational researchers that disputes the fundamental assumption that students with a designated learning style (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic, for example) learn more when the instructional methods match their style. Also referenced is a brief, nontechnical article authored by Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham, who begin their piece with this nonequivocating statement, “There is no credible evidence that learning styles exist.” (p. 33)
In an effort to make my lessons about plagiarism and the appropriate citation of sources more personal for the students in my rhetoric and research classes, I now use an assignment that forces them into the role of victim rather than thief. The results of my most recent experience with this approach were encouraging.
“Because much of what goes on in college classrooms lacks vitality, urgency and realness, students often draw a distinction between their classroom life and the real world.” So writes biology professor Christopher Uhl. He calls his solution “steering into the curve,” which he describes as the “antidote to the deadness that pervades many college classrooms.” (p. 108) He claims it has “the power to transform classrooms from tedious, lifeless places to alive, authentic relationship-rich environments.” (p.105)
As educators, we share the challenge of how to teach an overwhelming amount of content in a short period of time to a sometimes motivated but often bored and listless student population. I do believe that most students enter higher education with a true desire to master their subject area. Some are even interested in learning for the sake of learning. But lectures overloaded with PowerPoint slides quickly change the motivation to extrinsic. This is especially true in fields where high-stakes testing determines future career options.
Getting students to come to class prepared continues to be a challenge for teachers. Regular readers know that we are always on the lookout for relevant ideas and information, and the article referenced below contains some.
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?
Quizzes are standard in many college classrooms, and determining how to best use this learning format generates a variety of discussion and suggestions. I, too, continue to search for ways to inspire the often dull quiz routine. In an effort to bring new strategies to the classroom and keep student engagement high, I have recently discovered a successful strategy that encourages a sense of community in class, offers students an opportunity to engage in collaborative learning, and motivates students to come to class prepared. Let me explain how it works.
Have you authored a scholarly article? Or perhaps read one that is bookmarked, dog-eared, and referred to on a regular basis? If so, we want to hear about it!
The Teaching Professor and Magna Publications are seeking nominations for the Maryellen Weimer Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning Award. Now in its fourth year, the award recognizes outstanding scholarly contributions that advance college-level teaching and learning practices. Author(s) of the winning article will be recognized at the 2012 Teaching Professor Conference, June 1-3, 2012 in Washington D.C. and awarded a $1,000 stipend.