Active Learning

Classrooms that are student-centered rather than instructor-centered encourage students to actively engage in the material being taught instead of passively listening and taking notes. This type of learning environment requires students to be prepared for class, as they will need to actively participate and comment in discussion. Active learning encourages students to view peers and the community as additional authorities on the subject they are learning.

Flipping Your Class? Read This First

Posted on December 3, 2014 by Sarah Bleakney

Flipping can offer significant benefits to both instructors and students, but is this shift guaranteed to offer positive results? To ensure your flip doesn’t flop, consider three concerns raised in A Few Concerns about the Rush to Flip.

The author’s first concern is that our enthusiasm for flipping—which is enabled by a myriad of technology that can be robust, versatile, and easy to use—may not be supported by the “careful design work” necessary to guide “independent learning experiences.” Ensuring that students are “studying in ways that promote mastery of the material” requires careful consideration and design.

The second concern relates to the students themselves. The author asks us to consider whether flipped courses are “equally appropriate for everybody.” A flipped approach might work wonderfully with one population of learners, say third- or fourth-year students, and poorly for others, such as first-year students. The author recommends we consider “whose learning will benefit the most” from a particular approach.

The third concern focuses on issues of content. As the author asks, “Does the content of some courses flip more successfully than content in other courses?” and “What criteria do we use when deciding what content to flip?” To allow instructors to answer these questions and assess the success (or not) of flipping course content, the author recommends incorporating a flipped approach incrementally.

Empowering Your Students

Posted on October 10, 2014 by Sarah Bleakney

What’s an Empowered Student? asks instructors to consider not only why student empowerment matters, but also how it can be achieved through the dimensions of meaningfulness, competence, impact, and choice.

Meaningfulness, or how well a course aligns to students’ “beliefs, ideals, and standards,” motivates students to “work hard and produce quality work.” The dimension of competence relates to whether students feel “qualified and capable” of accomplishing what a course asks of them. If a course includes the dimension of impact, students believe the work they are doing makes a positive difference. And finally, choice comes into play when students have a role in determining course-related goals and how they will accomplish them.

Instructors can inspire this sense of empowerment in students in a variety of ways. They might outline what students need to do in order to succeed in a course (i.e., student best-practices). Instructors might, depending on course subject and size, allow students some decision-making for topics covered or assignments. Relating course topics to current events can also inspire a sense of student empowerment. As the article suggests, “empowered learners do better in courses and in life,” making the effort to empower students a worthy goal for all instructors.

Flipping Not Just for Classrooms

Updated on November 7, 2014 (originally posted on April 07, 2014) by Sarah Bleakney

As the post below details, flipping your class can offer a multitude of benefits. However, much of what is written on flipping focuses on the face-to-face classroom. And while flipping classroom courses can offer significant benefits, flipped strategies can have a positive impact on online classes, as well.

Can You Flip an Online Class? argues that we miss opportunities for student engagement and learning if we merely seek to replicate the face-to-face classroom experience for online learners. Instead, the author recommends strategies to flip the online classroom that leverage a variety of technology. The article has three suggestions for flipped strategies, including creating a scavenger hunt document, incorporating social media, and including assignments that prompt self-reflection. In addition, the Comments section includes a number of suggested flipped strategies.

Ideas for Active Online Learning provides additional suggestions for how to make online classes more active. Suggestions include incorporating threaded discussion summaries to allow instructors to assess students’ understanding. Instructors can also make learning more active by including collaborative group assignments that are created using online collaborative tools (such as the Canvas Collaborations EtherPad tool).

The above suggestions are well worth considering when seeking ways to flip your online class into one that is more active and student-centered.

Flipped Your Classroom Yet?

Posted on January 10, 2014 by Sarah Bleakney

Heard about flipping the classroom, but are unsure what that entails and want to learn more? A blog post by a DePaul mathematics professor provides a great place to start.

As the post outlines, flipping the classroom means replacing classroom lectures and homework with short videos and in-class activities. This approach allows students to watch and re-watch the video content as needed to support their mastery of concepts on their own time. This approach also allows instructors and TAs to use class time to provide personalized feedback and guidance to students as they work individually and in small groups to put the ideas they’ve gleaned from the videos into practice. In essence, flipping your classroom demands that you re-approach how you use class time.

Another way to flip your classroom is to reconceive how you incorporate projects – changing these types of assignments from instructor-directed to student-centered, and making them “an approach to learning rather than something to complete.”

The blog post includes suggestions for how to work around some of the potential challenges of flipping the classroom. It also includes a number of links to resources, including this infographic, which does a great job of visually presenting what the flipped classroom entails and why and how you may want to consider incorporating it into your teaching.

Strategies for Implementing Active Learning

Posted on November 6, 2012 by Tawnya Means

The University of Minnesota has a well-developed resource on Active Learning. You can find specific strategies including ice breaker activities, team and pair tasks, and individual tasks for changing the focus of learning from an instructor-focused environment to an environment that turns more of the responsibility of learning to the students. You can explore their resources.

Additional resources can be found at Geoff Petty’s website.