Monday, March 30, 2015

Active Learning Classrooms

Active Learning Classrooms (also Technology-Enhanced Active Learning Classrooms, or Flipped Classrooms) change how students and faculty interact in the classroom. In an Active Learning Classroom, work previously done in the classroom is now done outside the classroom, and activities traditionally done outside now occur in the classroom. Students learn in a more engaged model on their own, typically through recorded lecture or interactive media, then return to the Active Learning Classroom to interact with a cohort of other students to exercise what they have learned.

Through Active Learning Classrooms, student performance is often improved, students are more engaged, and students have direct access to their instructor when working through exercises (instead of having no one to ask when working alone, or when working in late-night study groups).

However, Active Learning Classrooms are not a panacea in education. In an Active Learning Classrooms mode, students must complete the prep work before class, faculty must restructure courses to support flipped classrooms, and institutions must provide spaces suitable for Active Learning Classrooms. Access to technology may also be a hindrance, both in the classroom (when faculty must work through technical glitches on their own) and in the dorm (students must have a computer to watch the recorded lectures).

An article from January's EDUCAUSE Review examines active learning classrooms at Case Western University. The article provides this overview: "In 2013, Case Western Reserve University developed an active learning initiative designed to help faculty use active learning instructional methods in two new learning spaces that were optimized for collaborative classroom learning with large movable computer displays, flexible furniture, shared writing surfaces. and so on. Through a yearlong Active Learning Fellowship, a group of 12 faculty members restructured one class each to include active learning techniques and thereby increase student engagement and success in the classroom."

You should read the article for the full background and results. In summary, the group found that students felt more engaged in Active Learning Classrooms. Students reported the new classroom "was valuable to them, increased their enthusiasm for the course, and positively affected their learning An especially interesting finding was that the majority of students … said they would prefer the surveyed course be taught in the same way in the future."

This is not the first study to discover that students prefer Active Learning Classrooms. A 2013 article from The Atlantic reported on a three-year study examining student performance in an Active Learning Classroom, and found student performance "improved by 2.5 percent between 2011 and 2012 … and by an additional 2.6 percent in 2013. Overall, student performance … improved between 2011 and 2013 by 5.1 percent. Students also came to prefer the flipped model to the lecture model. While 75 percent of students in 2012 said, before Mumper’s class, that they preferred lectures, almost 90 percent of students said they preferred the flipped model after the class."

At Morris, our faculty are beginning to use Active Learning Classrooms, although adoption is currently limited. I'm excited to see our experiment with Active Learning Classrooms at Morris. For example, Nancy Carpenter (Chemistry) took a year to restructure her lectures to use an Active Learning Classroom. Plant Services, Computing Services, and Instructional & Media Technology worked in partnership with the Division of Science & Math to rebuild one of the Science classrooms as a flexible Active Learning Classroom. The new space uses whiteboards throughout the room, two projectors, tablets, and flexible-use tables to create a flipped classroom—which can also be used as a traditional lecture room by other faculty who are not ready to adopt the Active Learning Classroom mode.

We've been using the new classroom since last Fall. This Spring, just before the break, I had an opportunity to meet with students to see how they liked using the new Active Learning Classroom. Feedback was very positive. Echoing the EDUCAUSE article, students said they felt more engaged, and they got more out of the class. The students said they would prefer more STEM classes be taught using an Active Learning Classroom mode, but suggested that traditional "lecture" classes would not benefit—or at least, would require significant retooling. I noted that none of the students had a laptop out; they said they just didn't have time to use them in class, they were too busy learning and working with groups to goof off. I think that's a great testimonial!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.