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Active Learning Strategies and Engagement

A session offered in the 2013 Course Redesign Institute offered by the University of Guelph's Open Learning and Educational Support.

Gavan Watson

on 11 October 2013

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Transcript of Active Learning Strategies and Engagement

Students rely on instructor to organize learning activities and sources (Berry, 2008)
Students work together to learn
On your own, take a moment to answer the following question:

With an answer hand, turn to a neighbour, and share your thoughts.
students work, self-directed, in small teams to solve a complex problem without a single correct answer
the problem drives the learning (rather than content)
more than synthesis of previously learned material (more common in the case method, where understanding is often being tested)
facilitation not knowledge driven; focused on metacognitive processes of problem solving and professional life (Savery & Duffy, 1996)
designed involve students in discussing the course material, rather than just hearing about it; often designed to replace lectures (Eberlein, et al., 2008)
students are assigned specific roles
guided inquiry: activities consist of a series of carefully crafted “leading” questions that generally follow a three-phase ‘‘learning cycle’’ approach meant to mimic the scientific method
Active Learning
Peer Instruction
Cooperative Learning
Cooperative Learning
Learning Outcomes
By the end of this session, you will be able to:

1) describe the characteristics of active learning and why active learning works
2) locate where active learning pedagogies and activities fit along the continuums of complexity & risk
3) introduce low-risk active learning techniques into your own teaching to engage students in their own learning
What does "active learning" mean to you?
Students learn both content and thinking strategies
(a.k.a. “metacognition”) (Hmelo-Silver, 2004)

Other benefits: “active learning may influence students’ social integration, commitment to the institution, and their decision whether to remain in school.” (Millis, 2012, p. 3)
1. align activities and assessments
2. appeal to those with extrinsic motivation
3. build consensus around value of activities
1. students learn about their learning
2. promotes a deeper orientation to learning
3. engages students' other identities
1. designed, intentional activities
2. operate at higher-order level of the cognitive domain
Bloom's Taxonomy
of the
Cognitive Domain
(Krathwohl, 2002)
The Pause...
Take two minutes and write a summary of what you've discovered active learning is (so far) and its benefits for student learning.
The Value Line
Not at
How comfortable are you facilitating active learning techniques in the classroom?
take little class time
takes more class time
carefully planned
more structured
less structured
interaction between students and instructor
interaction between students
concrete subject matter
more abstract subject matter
familiar technique
new technique
Problem-based learning cycle from Hmelo-Silver (2004, p. 237)
Berry, W. (2008). Surviving lecture: A pedagogical alternative. College Teaching, 56(3), 149-153.

Eberlein, T., Kampmeier, J., Minderhout, V., Moog, R. S., Platt, T., Varma-Nelson, P., et al. (2008). Pedagogies of engagement in science. [10.1002/bmb.20204]. A comparison of PBL, POGIL, and PLTL, 36(4), 262-273. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20204

Haak, D. C., HilleRisLambers, J., Pitre, E., & Freeman, S. (2011). Increased Structure and Active Learning Reduce the Achievement Gap in Introductory Biology. Science, 332(6034), 1213-1216. doi: 10.1126/science.1204820

Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2004). Problem-based learning: What and how do students learn? Educational Psychology Review, 16(3), 235-266.

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212-218. doi: 10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2

Millis, B. J. (2012). Active Learning Strategies in Face-to-Face Courses (pp. 1-8). Manhattan, KS: The IDEA Center.

Nelson, C. E. (2010). Want brighter, harder working students? Change pedagogies! Examples from biology. In B. Millis (Ed.), Cooperative learning in higher education: Across the disciplines, across the academy (pp. 119-140). Sterling VA: Stylus.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.

Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (1996). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. In B. G.

Wilson (Ed.), Constructivist learning environments: Case studies in instructional design (pp. 135-148). Englewood Cliffs: Educational Technology Publications.
Value Line
Concept Mapping
For the next activity, turn to the provided handout and follow the instructions.
3 groups (A-C) of ~ 5 people

Your task:
1. Search on-line (websites a suitable source for this task) for a description of your technique and how it should be facilitated.
2. Summarize the various activity descriptions into one coherent description that is applicable as a classroom active learning technique.
3. Describe a classroom situation where this situation would be used best (i.e.: Is this a low-risk activity? Does this activity take a lot of time to organize? What cognitive level does it operate at?).

Time: 15 minutes
5 groups (1-5) of 3 people
(one member of each topic group)

Each member of these smaller groups will have 5 minutes each to:
1. Describe their active learning technique as summarized in step
2. Share the facilitation considerations the topic group developed in step
3. Answer any clarifications as necessary.

Time: 15 minutes
Topic Group
Jigsaw Group
Strategies to ensure
active learning
for those with extrinsic motivation:
better marks
for those with intrinsic motivation:
learn about your learning
What we've done
Today we've:
defined what active learning is and why it works;
explored the continuum of active learning pedagogies & activities;
modeled five active learning techniques;
explored, described and critically examined one active learning technique in greater depth;
learned about two more techniques from others; and
found there are boat-load of active learning resources available on-line.

Thanks for participating!
Strategies & Engagement
Important to lay the groundwork for using active learning techniques:

communicate with students that active learning approaches will be reflected in assessments
counter resistance by explaining that these techniques have been shown to improve student learning and can lead to higher grades
debrief active learning techniques to have students discuss their value
(Millis, 2012)
CC-image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/enerva/4302079406/
Key components:
1. Learning task designed and initiated by instructor;
2. Individual accountability in group work;
3. Strongly interactive student to student execution of the tasks;
4. Immediate debriefing or other assessment providing instructor & students with prompt feedback about the success of the intended learning;
5. Instructional modifications by instructor that take account of this feedback
(Nelson, 2010; Berry 2008)
1. Model active learning from the beginning of the course
2. Communicate the value of active learning
3. Debrief the activities
4. Establish relevance
5. Ensure authenticity
6. Challenge higher order thinking
7. Build opportunities for risk, failure and re-try
8. Align classroom activities with student assessment
A variety of "learner-centered" techniques
Traditionally considered to be limited to classroom activities

Requires students to:
do meaningful learning activities
think about what they are doing (Prince, 2004)

Four key elements characterize (typical) active learning approaches:
1. critical thinking;
2. individual responsibility for learning;
3. involvement in open-ended activities, and;
4. organization of learning activities by the instructor. (Berry, 2008)
supplements, but generally does not replace, lecture time with group work sessions
peer-led groups meet weekly (separate from the lecture and the instructor) to work together on problems that are structured to help the students build conceptual understanding and problem-solving skills
“Specifically, active learning that promotes peer interaction makes students articulate their logic and consider other points of view when solving problems, leading to learning gains. We call this proposal the Carnegie Hall hypothesis on the basis of the story of a tourist who asks a New Yorker how to get to Carnegie Hall. The answer? ‘Practice.’”
(Haak, 2011, pp. 1214-1215)
Peer Instruction
What would be your preferred or most likely course of action?

A)Allow the student to re-submit their work under some conditions [consider what your conditions would be].

B)Respond to the student and explain that given the policies in the course syllabus, you can’t accept a resubmission [consider what those policies would be].

C)Respond to the student and say no, not feeling the need to justify your response.

D)Citing compassionate reasons, you allow the student to re-submit no questions asked.
Referring to the provided handout, read the teaching case and, on your own, select your preferred course of action from the four provided.
When prompted, share your decision (vote) via the provided index cards.
After voting, turn to a neighbour and share your choice and why you made it. If your neighbour makes a compelling argument, feel free to change your mind!
When prompted, share your decision with the provided index cards
Problem-based Learning
& Inquiry-based Learning
Deep vs. Shallow Learning
Public-domain image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BloomsCognitiveDomain.PNG
Active Learning Techniques, Activities & Pedagogies
live along a continuum
Lower Risk
Higher Risk
Short Writes
Process-oriented guided inquiry learning
Peer Led Team Learning
pause procedure; one minute paper
of active learning
Dr. Gavan Watson,
Educational Developer.
watsong [at] uoguelph.ca
Feel free to contact me:
Full transcript