Incorporate Active Learning

As you begin this fresh new semester and explore innovative pedagogical techniques to enhance student learning, consider active learning as part of your curriculum. There is an enormous body of literature on the topic, most of which demonstrates that students learn more and fail less when they participate in the learning process rather than just passively listen to lectures. Lecture is, of course, a valuable tool for student learning but it can usually be supplemented with active learning techniques to increase engagement and understanding. Here are just a couple strategies but there are countless journal articles, books, and websites you can search that are dedicated to this topic for any discipline from Math to Art to Kinesiology.

The undeniable potential of active learning was summed up in a meta-analysis by Freeman et. al (2013). They examined 225 studies comparing lecturing to active learning. Results showed that average exam scores improved significantly in active learning sections. They also found that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 55% times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning. They concluded with one of the strongest statements I’ve ever read in this type of research…“If the experiments analyzed here had been conducted as randomized controlled trials of medical interventions, they may have been stopped for benefit—meaning that enrolling patients in the control condition [lecture only] might be discontinued because the treatment being tested [active learning] was clearly more beneficial.”

Fringe benefit #1 of active learning is that students who resist learningbecome engaged learners and can no longer get away with not participating.

Fringe benefit #2 of active learning is that since students are often out of their chair moving around, they will likely be more awake, more engaged, and getting some physical activity.

Have a great spring semester!

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