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One BIG question – Conceptions of Active Learning Paul Wright Faculty of Technology, Southampton Solent University, SOUTHAMPTON, UK.

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Presentation on theme: "One BIG question – Conceptions of Active Learning Paul Wright Faculty of Technology, Southampton Solent University, SOUTHAMPTON, UK."— Presentation transcript:

1 One BIG question – Conceptions of Active Learning Paul Wright Faculty of Technology, Southampton Solent University, SOUTHAMPTON, UK. Wendelin Romer Centre for Active Learning, University of Gloucestershire, CHELTENHAM, UK

2 Who the hell are we? PaulWendelin Environmental scientist/marine chemist/geographer Archaeologist/Anthropologist Research butterflyUsing reflexive methodology for interpreting human remains Promoting and evaluating Active teaching practice Perceptions of Active Learning Encouraging inclusivity in university curricula Researching undergraduate research and perception of Active Learning Investigating the stuff that defines you as you Encouraging an understanding of the connection between theory and practice

3 This afternoon’s task Investigate the following question: ‘What is it to be a teacher?’ You can approach this investigation in any way you want Use any (or none!) of the resources, as you feel appropriate We want a resolution to this investigation in 45 minutes Don’t reflect on this outcome Yet!

4 How was it for you? We didn’t like smiley faces! We don’t like the absence of structure in early experience of self-reflection We do like it to be honest We do like it when it says what YOU mean, not what you think we want to hear So we decided to take a different tack.... Paul is a twit(terer)....but there is another way Haiku (we would like you to write up to 3)

5 Active Learning writing since Data from Web of Knowledge (2008) So, is AL the practice of the few, and from a select bunch of curricula?

6 Initial thoughts We found three ‘families’ of conceptions EXTERNAL The physicality of ‘doing’ Methods/Modes of activity Communication with each other Sense of ‘practice’ INTERNAL Cognitive processing Reflection Increasing maturity Taking responsibility HOLISTIC Meld these internal and external worlds. Engagement Development Creativity Investigation.

7 The Impact of AL For students,: ◦ IMPROVING (in terms of learning) ◦ DISCRIMINATING (identifies who is motivated, prepared, and differentiates between ‘surface’ and ‘deep’ learning) ◦ EMPOWERING (taking ownership) ◦ FUN. For teachers: ◦ STIMULATING (requires some thought and a scholarly approach to content and process) ◦ FUN (interactive and lively) ◦ REWARDING. Downsides included: ◦ Sustaining AL throughout 26 weeks ◦ Needing new strategies for coping with unmotivated, unprepared or struggling students ◦ Time pressures.

8 Testing the models RespondantResponse AResponse BResponse C UoG1 UoG2 UoG3 UoG4 UoG5 UoG6 UoG7 UoG8 UoG9 UoG10 UoG11 UoG12 UoG13 UoG14 UoG15 UoG16 UoG17 UoG18 UoG19 UoG20 UoG21 UoG22 UoG23 UoG24 UoG25 UoG26 UoG27 UoG28 UoG29 UoG30 UoG31 UoG32 UoG33 UoG34 UoG35 SSU1 SSU2 SSU3 SSU4 SSU5 SSU6 SSU7 SSU8 SSU9 SSU10 SSU11 SSU12 SSU13 SSU14 SSU15 SSU16 SSU17 INTERNAL EXTERNAL HOLISTIC

9 Testing the models RespondantResponse AResponse BResponse C UoG1 UoG2 UoG3 UoG4 UoG5 UoG6 UoG7 UoG8 UoG9 UoG10 UoG11 UoG12 UoG13 UoG14 UoG15 UoG16 UoG17 UoG18 UoG19 UoG20 UoG21 UoG22 UoG23 UoG24 UoG25 UoG26 UoG27 UoG28 UoG29 UoG30 UoG31 UoG32 UoG33 UoG34 UoG35 SSU1 SSU2 SSU3 SSU4 SSU5 SSU6 SSU7 SSU8 SSU9 SSU10 SSU11 SSU12 SSU13 SSU14 SSU15 SSU16 SSU17 INTERNAL EXTERNAL HOLISTIC

10 Some initial conclusions Most respondents identified conceptions that suggest that they believe student activity promotes learning. Ongoing debate about what this passive/active dimension looks like in class. Different teachers view student activity differently. People perceive Active Learning (as the pedagogy) as ‘learning by doing’ There is a dissonance between people’s ideas/concepts, and the experiences they describe of AL in practice This could result from uncertainty about what the pedagogy is, how to apply ‘it’, or being less confident about applying ‘it’

11 “I think that one of the key ideas in active learning for me is to get the students to understand WHY they are learning something – what the reason is for doing it. In this sense I wonder if the standard presentation at the front of the class by a lecturer can be active learning as well, as long as the students understand why they need this information”

12 Interviews We are presently at different places with this part of the Project. We share five aspects in the perception of AL ◦ Conceptualisation ◦ Values ◦ Academic Freedom ◦ Process ◦ Support and Resources

13 Conceptualisation Active Learning as a pedagogy is about ‘learning by doing’ There is a difference between AL as a pedagogy and what ‘learning actively’ is The way in which it was conceptualised informed its value

14 Value How respondents valued ‘doing’ related to their engagement with the pedagogy These values were positive, negative, ambivalent or ‘open’ These were related to their own experiences of learning, teaching, the pedagogy, and personal preferences

15 Academic Freedom Use of ‘two definitions’ (the respondent’s and the ‘University’s’) Threat to teaching quality (also related to value of ‘learning by doing’) Perception of loss of academic freedom and recognition of their expertise through ‘direction’ Neutral perspective through respondents already feeling ‘comfortable’ in their own practice

16 “Sometimes it’s just kind of perversity, I think. Thinking this is flavour of the month. I will resist it. If you are told by the Vice Chancellor, or some folks, that this is what the university is all about, and you think ‘Well, I think we do that in our own way, anyway’, so there is a kind of perverseness about it, a kind of resistance to being co-opted. Do you know what I mean? it is perverse because you know in your heart of hearts that is well intentioned, and a good thing”

17 Process Valuing and engagement varied depending on whether it was considered as a wholesale approach, or an element within a strategy of pedagogic approaches Strong positive response around using practical/experience/activity in the curriculum where relevant and subject applicable, but not necessarily associated with AL as a pedagogy

18 Support and Resources The possibilities of using AL were viewed as being constrained by resources ◦ Time to do prepare and do ◦ Support for development ◦ Doing AL in big classes as problematic ◦ Concern over how AL could be used in certain subject areas, that are less ‘practical’

19 Active Learning writing since Data from Web of Knowledge (2008) So, is AL the practice of the few, and from a select bunch of curricula?

20 Return to the text To listen and yet it is easy to forget To see/perceive and yet it is easy to remember/record To be/act as and yet it is easy to understand

21 New insights? Not just ‘doing’, but ‘being’ Sense of ‘embodiment’, and ‘thinking as’ No sense of first two lines being used negatively The final character contains the ‘heart radical’ – mind and heart

22 Thoughts so far We can identify a range of conceptions that teachers hold, concerning AL By and large, an individual views AL as a complex mix of the physical and cognitive It is not just ‘learning by doing’, and, in fact, it NEVER was! The need to introduce practice that promotes self-reflection and internalisation of learning We (Wendelin and Paul) need to join our work up

23 AL, Signature Pedagogy, Threshold Concepts Signature pedagogies (Shulman, 2005): ◦ Characteristic forms of teaching and learning that organise ways to prepare future practitioners for their professional work ◦ Possessing a deep structure ◦ “... a set of assumptions about how best to impart a certain body of knowledge and know-how. And it has an implicit structure, a moral dimension, that comprises a set of beliefs about professional attitudes, values, and dispositions” ◦ “disclose important information about the personality of a professional field—its values, knowledge, and manner of thinking, almost, perhaps, its total worldview” (Candol, 2007)

24 AL, Signature Pedagogy, Threshold Concepts Threshold Concepts (Meyer & Land, 2003): ◦ Described as a ‘portal’, which opens new ways of seeing one’s subject domain ◦ “Grasping a threshold concept is transformative because it involves an ontological as well as a conceptual shift. We are what we know. New understandings are assimilated into our biography, becoming part of who we are, how we see and how we feel. When academics announce that they are a sociologist, biologist, etc, they are announcing both their expertise and their identity, an identity which marks an arrival from being a student of sociology, biology, etc. to someone who thinks and acts like an ‘ologist’ of one kind or another. Those concerned with linking teaching and research are keen to progress this identity journey among their students.” (Cousin, 2007)

25 “One's action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be a mere rushing on..” D. H. Lawrence


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