Article: Indiana U Expands Active Learning Initiative

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This article has good overview of Indiana University’s Mosaic Active Learning Initiative.  The expansion brings 14 more Mosaic Fellows, which are

“faculty who, over the course of an academic year, teach in Mosaic classrooms, share approaches to active and collaborative learning, engage in research related to active learning classrooms, and contribute to the development of learning spaces across IU.”

The IU Mosaic site is here.

Thomas Mennella, “The Hidden Costs of Active Learning”

Mennella gets right to the point in the opening of his article: “Flipped and active learning truly are a better way for student to learn, but they also may be a fast track to instructor burnout.”  He continues:

I am an active learning college instructor and I’m tired.  I don’t mean end-of-the-semester and need-some-sleep tired.  I mean really, weary, bone-deep tired.”

His foray into active learning began when his school became an iPad institution, with all incoming freshmen getting iPads.  He continues on discussing the workload that this change has brought as he has implemented active learning and a flipped classroom.  It provides an interesting perspective of someone who supports the pedagogy, but things other things in the institution have to change to support the change in pedagogy.

The full post is here.

From Koala to Kangaroo: Getting Your Students Hopping With Active Learning

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From Koala to Kangaroo Slidedeck Icon

The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development and Cengage Learning recently held a webinar on using active learning in the classroom.  The video is the latest in the Striving for Excellence series.

Description: During this fun and interactive webinar, participants learn icebreaker activities and active-learning strategies that increase student engagement, encourage higher-level thinking, enliven classroom discussions, and enhance learning in the classroom. Participants leave with practical strategies they can implement immediately to move students from passive observers to active participants in their education.

Shawn Orr sees some of the characteristics of the Koala in her students, and she does not want to cultivate those qualities.  She is interested in turning her students into learners who more resemble Kangaroos (actually that possess the characteristics of Kangaroos).  She provides eighteen useful applications for active learning techniques that you can apply to your classes.  She defines active learning as anything that involves the student in their own learning.  Needless to say, she does think “Koalas” are involved in the learning process.

The slide deck is available here.

[Please Note: Although there is audio, there is no video image until about the 5 minute mark in the webinar video.]

Infographic – Learner-Centered Instructional Methods

Infographic - Learner-Centered Instructional Methods


Ken Bain, Students Learn By Doing

Webinar: Educating Nontraditional Students

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In this free webinar Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman, editors of Inside Higher Ed, discuss the issues related to the way colleges recruit and retain non-traditional students in higher education.

The slidedeck for the webinar is available here.

NSF: Enough With the Lecturing

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The following is from a National Science Foundation press release:

May 12, 2014

A significantly greater number of students fail science, engineering and math courses that are taught lecture-style than fail in classes incorporating so-called active learning that expects them to participate in discussions and problem-solving beyond what they’ve memorized.

Active learning also improves exam performance in some cases enough to change grades by half a letter or more–so a B-plus, for example, becomes an A-minus.

Those findings are from the largest and most comprehensive analysis ever published of studies comparing lecturing to active learning in undergraduate education, said Scott Freeman, a University of Washington principal lecturer in biology. He’s lead author of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of May 12.

Freeman and his co-authors based their findings on 225 studies of undergraduate education across all of the “STEM” areas: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Many of the studies analyzed were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The researchers found that 55 percent more students fail lecture-based courses than classes with at least some active learning. Two previous studies looked only at subsets of the STEM areas and none before considered failure rates.

On average across all the studies, a little more than one-third of students in traditional lecture classes failed–that is, they either withdrew or got Fs or Ds, which generally means they were ineligible to take more advanced courses. On average with active learning, a little more than one-fifth of students failed.

“If you have a course with 100 students signed up, about 34 fail if they get lectured to but only 22 fail if they do active learning, according to our analysis,” Freeman said. “There are hundreds of thousands of students taking STEM courses in U.S. colleges every year, so we’re talking about tens of thousands of students who could stay in STEM majors instead of flunking out every year.”

This could go a long way toward meeting national calls like the one from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) saying the U.S. needs a million more STEM majors in the future, Freeman said.

“Freeman’s study reinforces the conclusion of PCAST [President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology] that widespread implementation of these evidence-based practices will increase retention and persistence in STEM fields and further supports the findings of the National Research Council’s Discipline-based Education Research report, funded by NSF,” said Susan Singer who leads NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education.

It is encouraging news as NSF convenes an interagency team to implement the undergraduate goals of the Federal STEM Education 5-year Strategic Plan. One of the four goals is to “Identify and broaden implementation of evidence-based instructional practices and innovations to improve undergraduate learning and retention in STEM and develop national architecture to improve empirical understanding of how these changes relate to key student outcomes.”

Attempts by college faculty to use active learning, long popular in K-12 classrooms, started taking off in the mid-1990s, Freeman said, though lecturing still dominates.

“We’ve got to stop killing student performance and interest in science by lecturing and instead help them think like scientists,” he said.

For the paper, more than 640 studies comparing traditional lecturing with some kind of active learning were examined by Freeman, Wenderoth and their other co-authors, Sarah Eddy, Miles McDonough, Nnadozie Okoroafor and Hannah Jordt, all with the UW biology department, and Michelle Smith with the University of Maine, whose research was funded by NSF. The studies, conducted at four-year and community colleges mainly in the U.S., appeared in STEM education journals, databases, dissertations and conference proceedings.

Some 225 of those studies met the standards to be included in the analysis including: assurances the groups of students being compared were equally qualified and able, instructors or groups of instructors were the same, and exams given to measure performance were either exactly alike or used questions pulled from the same pool of questions each time.

The data were considered using meta-analysis, an approach long used in fields such as biomedicine to determine the effectiveness of a treatment based on studies with a variety of patient groups, providers and ways of administering the therapy or drugs.

Regarding grade improvement, the findings showed improvements on exams increased an average of 6 percent, which might raise students half a grade, for example from a B+ to an A-.

If the failure rates of 34 percent for lecturing and 22 percent in classes with some active learning were applied to the 7 million U.S. undergraduates who say they want to pursue STEM majors, some 2.38 million students would fail lecture-style courses vs. 1.54 million with active learning. That’s 840,000 additional students failing under lecturing, a difference of 55 percent compared to the failure rate of active learning.

“That 840,000 students is a large portion of the million additional STEM majors the president’s council called for,” Freeman said.


Kicking and Screaming: Activating Critical Thinking

Speaker: Heidi Helgren & Bruce Kemmer, Delta College:
Are your students struggling, refusing, or reluctant to use their critical thinking skills? Are you sick of hearing “what’s on the test?” or “Do I really need to know this?” Learn from Heidi and Bruce as they discuss engaging students utilizing case studies from their Cengage textbooks and current event examples in both face-to-face or online formats. Case studies can take the pressure off the instructor and force students to think about concepts differently. See how we work critical thinking skills into a variety of business topics including business law, human resources, management, and introduction to business.

Book: The Flipped Classroom

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“The Flipped Classroom” is a collection of Inside Higher Ed articles and essays about changing the instructional paradigm by having students review content on their own time and using in-class time for other purposes.

The articles and essays reflect key discussions about pedagogy, technology and the role of faculty members. This booklet is part of a series of such compilations that Inside Higher Ed is publishing on a range of topics.

The booklet is available here.

The Flipped Classroom: A Disruptive Revolution In Pedagogy, or Yet Another Educational Fad?

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Education columnist Rebecca Schuman @ Slate posted a piece on flipped classrooms yesterday.  The article is well written and brings up some good points, though at times I think the “flipped model” she describes become a bit of a straw man.  She writes:

If you are in college, I don’t mean to alarm you—but you are probably being experimented on. Stop checking for both of your kidneys; it’s not that kind of experiment. But chances are, one or more of you courses is currently being administered upside down, or “flipped.” Everything is backward: The lecture is assigned as homework! The “homework” is completed in class! The sun revolves around the Earth, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.

While there is no single model, in order to consider itself flipped, a course has to assign as homework what’s usually administered in person, often the lecture. This frees up classroom time to do what the homework would normally be—usually problem sets, now completed in teams or individually, with the instructor flitting about the flipped classroom, aiding the flummoxed with a flourish. Continue reading