Thursday, July 14, 2011

Promoting Active Learning

From Faculty Focus via a keynote address by Elizabeth F. Barkley at a recent Teaching Professor conference in Atlanta, excellent tips on promoting active learning including:


Get to classroom 10-20 minutes early, greet students by name as they come in.

Active Learning—have each student read another student’s paper and provide feedback. I provide a list of questions and comments as a guideline.

Use “participation quizzes” (for extra points) to keep students on task.

Motivation—when starting a project, ask students probing questions to help them break down the tasks so they are manageable.

Community Building: On the first day, I hold a “Mocktail Party.” Students out of seats, shaking hands, and meeting one classmate at a time. After 2 minutes, I say “switch” and students move on to the next classmate.

Send students motivational quotes via the vista (Blackboard) each day…that apply to something that each of them have shared at one point & time with the class. Student response has been exceptionally accepting.

“The Daily Quiz”
a. 1 question the minute class starts-fixes attendance issues and makes good into the lecture. It offers a reflection from previous lesson and gives a good segue to the next.
b. If you’re late?—no luck, typically easy marks too!!
c. If class is lagging??—I will ask if it is from material yet to be covered.

Motivation/Task is Tough Enough: Hold student/instructor conference for larger assignments (ie: first drafts). It helps student feel like he/she is important, treated as an individual. It also allows instructor to tailor the rest of the assignment to the student needs & abilities.

I try to help students “unlearn” previously experienced situations. For example, many of my students have had negative experiences in math. I work with them to overcome those experiences and learn.

Putting them into learning groups.

“You can do it, just like others did!”
I post previous semester grades and explain how test, attendance, & activities impact previous students grades.

Active Learning—I create a worksheet with course concepts & have students work in pairs in class with their books to define terms. We discuss terms as a class to make sure everyone agrees. Then we watch a film/movie in class looking for examples of course concepts. In class & online discussions.
Optimal Challenge Zone
a. I try to create a Friendly First Day. While the syllabus is clear, it is not designed to be scary. The first day of my Composition One class, I have students meet together and discuss the Best Writing they have ever done. I point out that academic as well as career and personal writing counts. When they finish, I emphasize that we are all already writers.

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