Include Project Based Learning

If you want to deeply engage your students in course content by shifting away from teacher-centered instruction and towards student-centered projects, try Project-Based Learning (PBL). This hi-impact curricular model makes learning relevant to students by establishing connections to life outside the classroom and by tackling real life issues. In PBL, faculty serve as facilitators and even co-learners as students engage in projects such as investigating community problems, analyzing complex social issues, creating new scientific tools, designing a new app, etc. Students are “coached” through hands-on experiences in real-world interdisciplinary settings that require critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving. Chico State already has several courses using PBL, some of which include service learning in collaboration with the Office of Civic Engagement.

Below are a few resources if you’re interested in learning more about PBL.

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!

You Either Are A Leader or You Have the Capacity to Become One

Being a leader is not determined by position or title. Instead, it means that you motivate and inspire the people around you to do their best work. French poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

As faculty, we lead undergraduate students to learning outcomes through our teaching. We lead graduate students through the research process. We lead meetings, community projects, and research teams. We also collectively lead the university through shared governance (AKA “shared leadership”), which empowers people to contribute their expertise and collaborate in the decision-making process. It emphasizes open communication and sharing of decision-making among the entire group. This fosters a sense of community around goals, provides the most diverse input into problem-solving, and makes the process more transparent.

The same model can apply in your classroom as you facilitate discussions and active learning experiences. Consider “sharing the governance” of a course with your students. Their input may guide the learning process in a unique and productive way. A 2007 meta-analysis concluded that learner-centered teaching had strong associations with positive student outcomes.


As a reminder, you’re invited to a wellness presentation (noon) and workshop (1pm) this Wednesday in Selvester’s Café presented by Chico State alum, Dr. Dominique Gummelt.