FuSE Blog Post: Session 8

Posted: 08 31, 2015

Future Science Educator Blog Post: Session 8

By Kelsey Marie Gray, FuSE Member

The workshop in active learning exemplified the teaching technique through and through. We learned about active learning using active learning. This began even before the class meeting with the presentation of the following learning objectives:

What does research say about active learning?

How can I get students actively engaged in learning, even with large class sizes?

How can I avoid common pitfalls?

At the start of class we were presented with a handout that provided a framework for addressing each of these objectives. We were guided through the beginning of the handout, which defined active learning — course-related class work that is not lecture, provided reasons for using active learning, and a list of research articles demonstrating it’s utility. We were then asked to take what we had learned thus far, and predict the data that might be presented on a blank graph showing percent student attentiveness over the course of a 50-minute class, with and without active learning. After discussion of the possibilities various student groups came up with, we found that there is a steady attentiveness decrease from 70% to 20% as the class nears the end. Each use of an active learning activity adds peaks of attentiveness during the class and increases the baseline attentiveness throughout. First learning objective achieved!

To address the second objective of exploring active learning strategies, descriptions of numerous active learning structures were presented and we were given time to read them over. We then chose a few that we had questions about and discussed these in small groups. Finally, we came together as a whole class and clarified any remaining questions the class had generated. This class discussion was an excellent alternative to listening to a lecture about all of the techniques. We not only had the chance to critically think about the material rather than mindlessly taking notes, we also covered the material in an abbreviated time span.

Finally, we had a competition, working in small groups, to see which group could think of the most common problems that might arise when starting to implement active learning into a course. This was followed by a group discussion of methods to address or avoid each of these problems. Thus, using active learning we were able to accomplish all three learning objectives (and more!) during the active learning workshop.



Workshop in Active Learning

Richard Felder, PhD, Hoest Celanese Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, NCSU and Rebecca Brent, EdD, President of Education Designs, Inc.

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