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Cultivating Active Learners Jennifer Zimmerman Assistant Director Academic Resource Center Mercer University

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1 Cultivating Active Learners Jennifer Zimmerman Assistant Director Academic Resource Center Mercer University


3  Understand the task  Approach topic at a high level of thinking  Do the work using recitative techniques  Practice/recite material learned  Reflect on/pursue searching questions  Demonstrate intermediate progress  Seek feedback and respond to constructive instruction  Demonstrate mastery of the task Steps in an Active Learning Cycle This cycle requires your attention over a period of time. You need to plan your schedule accordingly.

4 Motivate Your Progress in 3 Dimensions Identify and Acquire Selected Information Comprehend Underlying Principles Demonstrate Understanding

5 Be Clear About Your Motivation  Active learning is more natural and productive when you are intrinsically motivated  Passive learners often find it difficult to leap the great divide between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation  This resistance often arises out of unknown fear  Practicing the habits of an active learner may lead you to small successes resulting in the naming or attenuation of this fear  As the paralyzing effects of fear subside, you can cultivate your intrinsic motivation and energetically experiment with an array of active learning methods

6 Identify the knowledge to be acquired and mastered: Understanding the Task – Part I  Attend the first day of class (and everyone thereafter)  Read and understand the syllabus completely  Make sure you understand the scope of every assignment  Look at old exams early in the semester  Talk to students who have already taken the course Nist & Holschuh, pp. 161-2

7 Focus attention on grasping and applying the kinds of intellectual conceptualizations, analyses, and syntheses that:  Give college level studies their edge (compare college level work with high school work and try to grasp the significance of their differences)  Provide the underlying framework for your professor’s plan of study (listen for your lecturer’s interpretation techniques)  Resonate with the subject matter Used by experts in the field Facilitate your own insights into the subject matter Understanding the Task – Part II Ask Yourself Questions!

8 Understanding the Task – Part III Identify expectations for convincing demonstrations of acquired knowledge:  Assumed competencies Grammar Presentation Responsibility  Comprehensive exams Quantity of information Testing of high level thinking as well as recall  Communication skills Coherent reasoning Vocabulary

9 Instructional Goals  Effective Access to a Well-Defined Body of Knowledge Acquisition  Representations of Illuminating Conceptual Frameworks that Model How a Body of Knowledge may be Mastered Comprehension  Confidence Building Experiences in Applying Conceptual Frameworks to Achieve Results that Matter Engagement  Communication of Standards used in Making Critical Evaluation of Student’s and Others’ Substantive Work in the Field Demonstration

10 Case Studies (Personal Experiences)  Take-home “discovery” final (logic and philosophy of science)  Year-long application of an untraditional representation system (calculus and linear algebra)  Reading aloud of corrected student papers by professor  Pass/fail first semester  Constructive questioning (philosophy or math)  Seminar class format

11 Effective Access to a Well-Defined Body of Knowledge Traditional Method: Lecture Shift focus away from verbal transfer and memorization to teaching students how to Find Establish reliability, and Organize and represent

12 Take-home Final  Source materials were all original writings  No preview or summary lectures on the topic  Secondary sources available for consultation at the discretion of the individual student  The information to be garnered from each reading had to fit into the conceptual framework around which the exam was designed and did not need to be memorized  The dynamic between inductive and deductive learning was exciting Inductive – wrestled with individual arguments Deductive – the underlying design of the exercise helped make relevant discriminations more apparent

13 Active Learning Methods:  Distribution of comprehensive course outline or reference handbook with strategic gaps  Internet research projects  Web-based portfolios (emphasizes research, organization, and presentation methodologies over memorization)  Construction of hypertext documents

14 Representations of Illuminating Conceptual Frameworks that Model How a Body of Knowledge may be Mastered Traditional Method: Lecture and Standard Readings

15 Untraditional Representation System  Entire year’s syllabus for calculus and linear algebra was designed to use APL (A Programming Language)  Gained practice in applying an unintuitive representation system to model insights less readily apparent with the more standard representation (this may have made physics more difficult!)  Missed opportunity – exploring the changes in meaning wrought by different representation systems – this meta- level evaluation ( a process critical to active learning) was not addressed very well in the course

16 Active Learning Methods:  Outline alternate conceptual models explicitly and discuss the meta-level evaluation involved  Construct concept diagrams or other appropriate visual representations together in class  Teach students to use Cornell note-taking methods  Practice writing searching questions that lead toward clarifying and deepening conceptual understanding Distribute sample question bank Assign question-writing tasks individually or by group Critique questions in class

17 Confidence Building Experiences in Applying Conceptual Frameworks to Achieve Results that Matter Traditional Methods:  Students solving and explaining problems on the board  Peer reviews of written papers  Group discussions and debates

18 Build Confidence  Clearly communicate all of your “rules” via Detailed syllabus Well-defined higher-level thinking objectives Explicit assignments and tests Product models (e.g., papers, presentations, etc.)  Consider learning styles Your teaching style most likely parallels your individual learning style Your students’ learning styles will vary widely  Encourage students to define their own quests Relating material to personal background knowledge Investigating idiosyncratic inspirations or confusions

19 Learning Styles Students will vary  Visual/Verbal/Kinesthetic  Sensing/Intuitive  Inductive/Deductive  Active/Reflective  Sequential/Global Teaching is typically  Verbal  Intuitive (abstract)  Deductive  Passive (neither A or R)  Sequential Encourage the application of all learning styles in class, assignments, and tests

20  Leverage different learning styles and backgrounds to Light that first spark in each individual learner Make it easier for each learner to succeed early on Expose students to different learning styles and backgrounds that may prove surprisingly illuminating Facilitate retention and comprehension through the application of multiple modalities and context linkages  Encourage students to practice applying strategies at odds with their pre-disposed learning styles Focus on alleviating short term stress Demonstrate long term gains (e.g. study groups) Facilitate Positive Experiences

21 Aim to Accelerate Increased confidence  intrinsic motivation Internally generated questions  deeper learning

22 Guide Higher-Level Thinking Skills  Ask stretching questions – analyze, synthesize, evaluate – and give students enough time to think as well as speak  Vary problem types in examples and assignments Brainstorming Incompletely defined problems Inductive reasoning Problem-definition exercises Case studies  Engage students in cooperative learning projects  Try new things at least three times and use a different learning style each time  Provide models – good and bad examples  Provide constructive feedback and critique anonymous samples in class

23 Expose Conceptual Frameworks and Methods of Application  Use less class time to convey information Give clear directions how to find needed information Stop measuring “how much ground you have covered”  Model conceptual interpretation techniques Tell your students what you are doing Share your own struggles to achieve understanding  Schedule class activities that Force students to practice wrestling with their higher level understanding of course material Provide opportunities for incrementally challenging but consistently constructive experiences Give students ample opportunity to interact and learn how their peers apply (or create) conceptual constructs

24 Target Results that Matter to Students  Facilitate students’ transition from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation with a few behavioral rewards  Let students see you struggle with the material and then see the satisfaction you derive from mastering the material  Acknowledge that students’ satisfactions will differ from your own, but show that “pure” pleasure in learning is possible  Show students how you motivate the material by relating it to your broader interests  Encourage individual exploration that takes the students closer to their known interests  Encourage exploration that helps students to discover new interests and take chances!

25 Reading Aloud of Corrected Paper  Incredible confidence builder  Gift of a concrete experience that could be (and often was) used to banish the fear of being “unmasked as a fraud”  Professor publicly applauded the idiosyncratic delight taken in writing the paper  Comparison to other papers read aloud gave students good models of what was expected – clarified the rules and at the same time rewarded experimentation

26 Course Beginnings:  Show a graphic organizer for the course  Build list of course expectations and questions  Share advice from previous students  Present relevant problems students should be able to solve at end of course  Introduce cooperative learning agenda (if there is one) and practice an “ice breaker”

27 In Class Activities:  One minute papers  Argument construction  Small group generated answers or questions  Pair problem-solving  Guided reciprocal peer questioning  Essay question creation  Team challenges – recall, example, why a result is wrong, brainstorm, summarize lecture  Structured controversy

28 Activities:  Team completion of a test advertised as rote memorization but providing inductive examples of the application of concepts that deepen understanding (e.g. vocabulary quiz)  Test composition  Student presentations describing research, personal application, results, and self-evaluation  Team projects with assigned expertise on sub-tasks

29 Communication of Standards used in Making Critical Evaluation of Student’s and Others’ Substantive Work in the Field Traditional Methods:  Grades  Professor’s comments

30 Pass/Fail First Semester  Makes clear up front that academic success is predicated on the ascertainment of relevant (but not necessarily known, obvious, or intuitive) standards  Frees the student to focus on learning how to identify standards first instead of focusing on getting good grades (a practical result of this strategy is that students are more likely to experience success early on because their initial forays are made in a less tentative fashion)  Frees professors to provide expansive and constructive commentary instead of focusing on how to justify and distribute grades (also, grading can be absolute and therefore more informative)  Encourages paper rewrites or test retakes  Allows students to take an inductive approach to learning how to ascertain standards

31 Active Curriculum Challenges  Under-prepared students  Immature students  Instructor’s willingness to accept partial responsibility for students’ motivation Adopt behavioral practices (means to a purer end) Acknowledge students’ varied backgrounds  Higher incidence of emotional tension in the classroom Group learning projects Public evaluation of students’ work  Heavier preparation workload for instructor  Outmoded evaluation methods Objective methods may lose relevance to class work Subjective methods may become overly burdensome

32 Assessment  Adopt active learning methods incrementally until such time as the institution moves as a whole to an active learning program  Choose to set aside a certain percentage of your syllabus for active learning experimentation each year Rotate active learning topics Select current research interests as targets for active learning exercises  Anticipate students’ need for transition time and training in new strategies Build un-graded practice exercises into syllabus Distinguish grading difficulties from learning and pedagogical challenges

33 nual.html#activeinvolvement The Tutee's Active Involvement Research shows that active involvement enhances learning and leads to independence. Your job is to suggest ways a student can be actively involved and then to model those learning behaviors. (Remember that during the tutoring session the tutee, not you, should be doing the work.) Here are some suggestions. Probe the student's background knowledge and help her to connect the new to the known. One of the critical elements in understanding is the information or data a student already holds in her memory. A student brings this knowledge to the task and then constructs new knowledge or restructures existing knowledge. Teach the student to ask questions, predict and then seek answers. These mental processes of asking and seeking allow students to build meaning over time and as more information is added. The focus of tutoring becomes learning how to learn rather than just finding answers. Show the student how to set clear purposes for learning. Have the student analyze her class and task. Having a purpose for reading, studying or thinking influences what one understands and learns. Teach the student to think about her own thinking and how she learns. Effective learners consciously monitor their thinking and control it through implementing a wide range of strategies. Consider demonstrating how to "think aloud." For example, you might model out loud the way you generate questions as you read and then predict and seek the answers. You might also share some mistakes you have made, how you learned from them, and how you monitored for further difficulties. Ask the student to verbalize, rephrase, and summarize what you have explained and what he has learned. Putting information into one's own words solidifies understanding and helps memory. Focus on organization of ideas (as well as time, space and materials). Problems may occur because a student doesn't understand: –how to arrange information according to meaningful classifications –how to fit the new information into what she already holds in her memory –how organization is used to represent ideas and meet a particular purpose

34 Pauk, Walter, How to Study in College. 7 th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. Nist, Sherrie L. and Jodi Patrick Holschuh, Active Learning: Strategies for College Success. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon, 2000. Baker, Nelson, Succeed: Effective Teaching Handbook. Southeastern University and College Coalition for Engineering Education: Georgia Institute of Technology, an NSF Education Coalition. Material collected from the Effective Teaching Handbook by Rich Felder and Rebecca Brent of NC State and the Effective Teaching Institute presented at ASEE. Resources

35 Active Learning Inventory – VARK Index of Learning Styles Teaching and Learning Styles Bibliography Integrating Technology Into the Classroom support.html

36 Resources on Teaching and Learning Active Learning on the Web Active and Cooperative Learning (R.M. Felder) Active and Student Centered Learning

37 Berkeley Compendium of Suggestions for Teaching with Excellence The Teaching Resource Exchange Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching The Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier

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