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Combating Student Resistance to Active Learning Kyong-Hee Melody Lee Associate Professor Department of Mathematics

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Definition Active Learning is any instructional method that requires students to engage in class in ways other than sitting and listening. 2

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Why Do Students Resist Active Learning? According to Richard M. Felder and Rebecca Brent, 1996 (Navigating the Bumpy Road to Student-Centered Instruction) “The students, whose teachers have been telling them everything they needed to know from the first grade on, don’t necessarily appreciate having this support suddenly withdrawn.” 3

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Six Causes of Resistance to Learning The Teaching Professor, March 2009 (Six Causes of Resistance to Learning) Brookfield, Stephen D., 1990 (The Skillful Teacher) 1.“Poor Self-Image as Learners – If students don’t think they can learn, they often resist efforts that seek to make them learn. … 2.Fear of the Unknown – Some students resist learning because they are afraid. Students like doing what they already know. … 3.Disjunction Between Learning and Teaching Styles – … Sometimes students resist when their preferred approach to learning is at odds with how the information is organized or is being presented. 4.Apparent Irrelevance of the Learning Activity – Students resist learning when they don’t see how or what an activity contributes to their efforts to learn. If it looks like busywork or a waste of time, students resist. … 5.Inappropriate Level of Required Learning – Students get frustrated and angry when they can’t understand the content. They object to unfamiliar language and the fast-paced delivery of complicated material. The frustration quickly becomes resistance. … 6.Students’ Dislike of Teachers – It’s not a particularly pleasant thought, but sometimes students resist because they just plain don’t like the teacher. …” 4

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Introduction In this presentation, I will share my experiences on how I am working on combating student resistance to Active Learning in terms of Brookfield’s Six Causes of Resistance to Learning using the following four steps in my Math 111 course. 5

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Step 1- Understanding Students Students in Math 111 come from diverse mathematics backgrounds, academic experiences, learning styles, and paces of learning. 6

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Step 2 - Understanding Problems In my Math 111 class, 28% of the students are the first generation attending the university 55% of the students are first child attending the university 49% of the students are full time students and are working either full time or part time 84% of the students may not know effective study skills. 7

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Step 3 - Make Plans and Implement My plan was to design the course so that students will spend their time and energy effectively in learning the course materials, and develop good study habits. 8

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Plan #1: Set the Course Requirements Homework (consists of parts I, II, and III)180 points Pop Quizzes 20 points 11 Quizzes (2 quizzes = 1 exam)550 points Final Exam 250 points Total 1000 points 9

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Homework Part I Part I of the assignments consists of watching, listening, and taking notes on selected video recorded examples from MathXL. (Done before coming to class) This helps students to combat #2 Fear of the Unknown. 10

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Homework Part II Part II of the assignments consists of reading the textbook and writing down answers using their own words to some questions I have made for them. (Done before coming to class.) On the first day of the class, I walk through the SQ3R textbook reading strategy with students using the first textbook reading assignment. (SQ3R = Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review; I also give information on how to improve their comprehension skill.) This helps students, to begin to develop effective study skills and study habits This helps students to combat #2 Fear of the Unknown. 11

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In class Problem Solving Activity Mostly, right after about minutes of reading and discussing the information in the summary handout, students do the Problem Solving Activity. They are allowed to do this problem solving activity individually or in group. (Students are encouraged to ask questions to their peers and/or me.) This helps students, to learn at their own pace or with their own peers to eliminate any possible peer pressures to actively practice skills in reflecting, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating mathematical concepts to answer any questions they have in problem solving right in class This is a very important activity time, since they must know how to solve various types of problems for their quizzes and the final exam. This helps students to see that the class activity is directly relevant to their learning. Hence, this helps students to combat #4 Apparent Irrelevance of Learning. 12

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Pop Quizzes Pop Quizzes are for something that students must remember, for instance, formulas. I give students one to two minutes to remember one formula whenever necessary and give them a pop quiz on it. I let students know that my intension of giving them a pop quiz is not to surprise or scare them, but it is to help them to solve problems efficiently without looking for formulas. This helps students, to know that I am reasonable, trying to help them learn content materials efficiently, and care about their successful learning. This helps students to combat #6 Students’ Dislike of Teachers. 13

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Quizzes I give no exams but frequent long quizzes. Mostly each quiz takes about 25 to 30 minutes to complete. Two quizzes = 1 exam. This helps students, to digest and focus on a smaller amount of content material to catch up with material they did not understand to release stress and frustration This helps students to combat #5 Inappropriate Level of Required learning. 14

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After Each Quiz (1) We go over the quiz using the remaining time, while their memory is fresh. This helps them to correct their error(s) immediately. (Once in a while, if my quiz got little bit longer than usual, I go over the quiz during the next class meeting.) Using the Stem-and-Leaf Diagram, I show the class grade distribution to students for each quiz. This helps students, to see that the teaching and learning method we are using is working out for most of them to see their grade in terms of whole class This helps students to combat #3 Disjunction Between Learning and Teaching Styles. This also helps students to combat Poor Self-Image as Learners #1.. 15

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After Each Quiz (2) After students successfully receive a good grade on their first quiz, they begins to build self-confidence. Experiencing this successful result encourages and/or self-motivates students to continue to actively engage in learning. 16

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Final Exam This course has a Departmental Final Exam which mostly focuses on testing how to solve various mathematical problems. 17

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Plan #2: On the first day of the class Help students to understand why the course is set up in this way, and my expectations. 18

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First day of the class (1) I share a quote from the book Creating Significant Learning Experiences with my students. “At the end of the lecture, the average level of the students’ recall of information was 42 percent. One week later, even with the benefit of taking the same test a second time, students’ recall had dropped to 20 percent.” L. Dee Fink,

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I also share Dale’s Cone of Experience 20

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First day of the class (2) I also tell students that Students usually do not have anyone to ask questions when they are stuck solving problems at home. Hence, this course is design to spend more time on problem solving in class. In this way, students can benefit more when they are taking quizzes/final exam. In order to spend a good amount of time with Problem Solving Activity, they must thoroughly complete part I and II of the homework assignments at home. When the course materials get difficult, I will give at most 30 minutes of lecture. This helps students to combat #3 Disjunction Between Learning and Teaching Styles, and #4 Apparent Irrelevance of the Learning Activity. 21

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First day of the class (3) I set up a common goal for students and me. Successfully completing the course requirement, and moving on with their degree program without any delay. No one should be left behind and be required to repeat this course. I periodically remind the goal to students whenever they seemed to be side tracked (or distracted). This helps students to see that the instructor has the best intention for their success. to build trust between the instructor and students This helps students to combat #6 Students’ Dislike of Teachers 22

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Step 4 - The Results of the Course Design Some of students’ written comments: Please make some comments regarding teaching and learning of this course. Thank you! “At first I wasn’t to sure about how the class was going to work for me. I have never done anything like this and was not used to it. The beginning started a little ruff, but now that I know the workings of the class, I do feel that it is working for me. As of right now, I like the way the class is structured. I feel your teaching is very good and overall I am having a good experience.” “I honestly love the way this class is structured. Normally I would dread going to math classes because we would spend 50 minutes writing notes that were never thoroughly explained and then sent home to wing 2 hours of homework. I like that we get introduced to the material at home to get familiar with it and then come to class with questions prepared. I have never had a grade this high in a college level math class and have never felt this comfortable with the materials. All teachers should use this strategy.” “I’ve never had a professor structure a course, especially a Math course this way. I gave the class a chance, figuring I’m not very good at Math, what can it hurt? I found myself learning more and being/feeling more comfortable than expected. I like this teaching/learning structure! Why weren’t they all like this. Love it!” “I don’t like this style of teaching, because it is not really teaching. In this style, the students are teaching themselves far more than they are learning from the teacher. I learn better when the teacher goes through this section in class and answers any questions the students have. On the plus side, this style of teaching helps the students create smart study habits that will also benefit us in other classes.” 23

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Comparison of grades from two sections Quiz #Class Average of Each Quiz Spring 2013Fall 2013 LectureActive Learning Fall 2013 average quiz scores are consistently higher than in spring

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Conclusion Carefully designed classroom activities that will directly help students to: 1) experience successful results in the course starting from the early part of the Semester; 2) enhance analytical, critical, and problem solving skills; 3) develop effective study skills; are three utmost important elements that I am using to combat my students’ resistance to active learning. “There is now strong empirical evidence that active involvement in the learning process is vitally important in two areas: a) for the mastery of skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving; and b) for contributing to the student’s likelihood of persisting to program completion” (Braxton, Jones, Hirschy, & Hartkey, 2008; Prince, 2004) ~ Center for Faculty Excellence at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin ( ) 25

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Suggested Reading The following two books greatly influenced my active teaching methods: 1.“Creating Significant Learning Experiences” by L. Dee Fink 2.“Promoting Active Learning” by Chet Meyers & Thomas B. Jones 26

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27 Thank you!

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