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A. Use masking tape to force people to sit near the front of the room. DO NOT pass out handout until Step F.

B. Start with “Importance of Lecture” mini-lecture.

C. Think/Pair/Share: Pass out index cards. Have participants think/write about a situation where their students (or themselves) really got excited and learned something. Share with partner. Discuss as a group to build concept map about “Characteristics of active learning”

D. Concept Map (K of KWL)

E. “Big Ideas” transparency (advanced organizer)

F. Distribute handout and discuss Think/Pair/Share, KWL, Concept Mapping, Advanced Organizers

G. Go over “Ten No/Low Effort Strategies”

Practical Strategies to Increase Active Learning in Lecture Classes

Suzanne Weber 315-341-3858 (W) 315-343-6754 (H)

School of Education, 200 Poucher Hall, Oswego State University, Oswego NY

Think/Pair/Share • Stop lecture and pose a higher-order question (application, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation). Instruct students to jot their own ideas down first, then turn to a partner and develop a consensus answer to share with the class.

• Options: Provide a stimulus such as a demonstration, graph, cartoon, movie clip, advertisement, etc. See suggestions at the end of this handout..
KW(L) • Have students brainstorm everything they know (K)

and want to know (W) about the topic to be introduced in class. Record ideas on overhead or blackboard. After instruction, have students add what they learned (L) to the list.

• Options: Create a Concept Map of the relationship between initial ideas.
Concept • Create a diagram or flow chart which shows the

Mapping relationship between ideas (Novak & Gowin, 1984). Start with the main topic label in the center, and then use labeled arrows to show relationships among other ideas.

• Options: Begin the map and ask student to complete it in groups, as homework, or in class as new ideas are discussed
Advance • Instructor orients students to 2-4 main ideas to be

Organizers covered in the day’s class. The concepts should be stated in the way you would like students to answer if asked “What did you learn in class today?”

• Expect students to make more complex mental links between existing and new ideas (Ausubel, 1963).


1. Masking • Use masking tape to place back rows of large lecture hall

Tape Seats “off-limits” for seating in the first week of class. Once students have selected seats toward the front of the room at the beginning of the semester, they will stay there and be more likely to interact with instructor and others.
2. Notebook • Have students write their names in very LARGE letters

Names on the backs of their lecture notebooks. (Assign task as homework; provide permanent markers in class for laggards.) Students display their names to contribute in class instead of raising their hands.

• Expect to learn a greater proportion of student names to build rapport in your class.
3. Study • Have students complete a student information card that

Groups includes where they live. Create and post geographical lists (Onondaga Hall, Seneca Street, Eastside Oswego, etc) around the edges of the room. Have students meet at the posted lists to form groups of 3-5 to do cooperative homework assignments based on a Higher Order Question (see below), sit together in class, and eventually study together.

• Options: Grade group homework as extra credit.
4. Planned • Pause 2-3 times for 2-3 minutes in an hour lecture.

Pauses Instruct students to go over notes, jot down questions, try to clarify concepts with a partner. No interaction with instructor.

• Expect significant improvement in 3-minute free recall quiz scores after lecture and up to 2 letter grade improvement on subsequent exam scores (Ruhl, Hughes & Schloss, 1987).
5. Pop • Give 3-5 multiple choice or short answer questions at

Quizzes the beginning or end of lecture. Using a pop quiz at the beginning of lecture rewards out-of-class reading; using it at the end of class encourages attentiveness to lecture.

• Options: Allow use of notes for end of class quiz to encourage better note-taking. Take quiz in cooperative groups for self-assessment. Take quiz individually for extra credit.

• Expect significant increase (25% to 45%) in 8-week retention (Menges, 1988).

6. Collect • Encourage students to take notes on their out-of-class

Reading reading assignments. Collect reading notes for the day at

Notes the beginning of some or all classes; give 1-2 bonus points for doing them. Return the next class period.
7. Exam • For answering higher order essay or multiple choice

Cheat Sheet exam questions, allow students to prepare one index card summarizing “important” information to use during part or all of the exam.

• Option for Small Class: Collect cards at beginning or middle of exam for use at end or beginning of test.
8. Minute • Students write for 1 minute about the lecture topic at

Papers the end of class.

• Options: Students write a general “I learned…” summary of main ideas or instructor defines a particular topic or question. Papers can go into student notebook or be written on index cards. Papers can be collected or exchanged with a partner for comment or discussion. See Pop Quiz. Use with Advance Organizer or Higher Order Questions.
9. Higher Order • Prepare one or more application, analysis, synthesis, or

Questions evaluation questions AHEAD OF TIME that require

& Discussion time and thought to answer. These are the ONLY kinds of questions suitable for high-quality discussions. (Knowledge and comprehension-level questions kill discussion. They are too boring.)

• Options: Use with Think/Pair/Share, Minute Papers, Exam Questions, Feedback & Responsive Lectures, Dillon Review, and Cooperative Learning.

• Expect more thoughtful discussions and better retention of important concepts.

H. Use “Montillation of Traxoline” transparency to illustrate superficiality of knowledge/comprehension level learning.

Blooms High • EVALUATION – justify judgment about complex ideas

Taxonomy • SYNTHESIS – link ideas to create a new concept

• ANALYSIS – identify components of a complex idea

• APPLICATION – use ideas in a new context

• COMPREHENSION – understand or explain ideas

Low • KNOWLEDGE – recall ideas

10. Wait Time & • Wait 3-5 seconds after asking a higher order question.


I. ASK HIGH LEVEL QUESTION: “What are the barriers to changing teaching behaviors in higher education?” Use transparency AFTER discussion to summarize.

Discussion DO NOT RESPOND to students the first time they pause – give them time to add to their answers. Students need time to think when active learning is occurring.

• Expect longer and more thoughtful discussions and better retention of important concepts (Chuska, 1995; Tobin, 1986).


J. Use “Science Exam Question” to illustrate the strategy


Exam Questions • Display a higher order exam-type question (short answer or multiple choice) on the overhead. Have students answer on an index card, and then discuss question with a partner (Think/Pair/Share).

• Options: After both individual and group answer, have students indicate how confident they are of their answers – confident, uncertain, clueless. Have students turn in cards to check for understanding.
Case Studies • Students read or watch a factual or dramatized account of a (human) situation that poses a problem.

• Options: Diagnose alternative reasons for the problem. Brainstorm alternative solutions for the problem. Evaluate alternatives and come to consensus on best solution. See Think/Pair/Share. Use cooperative groups. Output can be a class discussion, debate, simulation, report, drama, poster session or role play.

Cooperative • Groups of 2-6 students work on a common problem,

Learning or product. Define and rotate collaborative roles (recorder/reporter, discussion manager/timekeeper, process reflector).

• Options: Task can be assigned ahead of class so students bring in individual ideas. Intermediate products can be self- or peer-assessed and included in a project portfolio turned in with the product. Grades for individuals can be the average of individual performances or split between group product grade (e.g., 80%) and peer process evaluation grade (e.g., 20%). There are MANY options for structuring and evaluating cooperative work.

K. Review “Big Ideas” transparency.

Dillon • Students write several “hard” (higher order) questions,

Review some they know the answer to (question & answer) and others they cannot answer (question only).

• Options: Use questions as the basis for group problem-solving or group competitive game or review session.

References (*General sources of information on active learning strategies.)

Ausubel, D.P. (1963). The psychology of meaningful verbal learning. New York: Grune & Stratton.

*Bonwell, C.C., & Eison, J.A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1. Washington, DC: George Washington University, School of Education & Human Development.

Cowan, J. (1984). The responsive lecture: A means of supplementing resource-based instruction. Educational Technology, 24, 18-21.

Chuska, K.R. (1995). Improving classroom questions. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa.

Gleason, M. (1986). Better communication in large courses. College Teaching, 34, 20-24.

Menges, R.J. (1988). Research on teaching and learning: The relevant and the redundant. Review of Higher Education, 11, 259-268.

*McKeachie, W.J. (1994). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers, 9th edition. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.

Novak, J.D., & Gowin, D.B. (1984). Learning how to learn. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Osterman, D., Christensen, M., & Coffey, B. (1985). The feedback lecture. IDEA paper No.13. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University, Center for Faculty Evaluation & Development.

Ruhl, K.L., Hughes, C.A., & Schloss, P.J. (1987). Using the pause procedure to enhance learning recall. Teacher Education & Special Education, 10, 14-18.

Tobin, K. (1986). Effects of teacher wait time on discourse characteristics in mathematics and language arts classes. American Educational Research Journal, 23, 191-200.

The Importance of Doing Lecture Well
Teacher talk is common in higher education

  • 73-83% of faculty use lecture as primary instructional mode (Blackburn et al, 1980)

(89% science/math, 81% social science, 61% humanities, 81% art history, 90% philosophy)

  • 88% of time in class is teacher talk (92% science), 5% student talk, 6% silence (Lewis & Woodward, 1984 recorded 14 possible actions every 3 seconds for entire class period)

  • Professors who report “class discussion” at 69% and “extensive lecturing” at 45% (American College Teacher: National Norms for the 1998-99 H.E.R.I. Faculty Survey) are probably fooling themselves

Lecture can be a valuable experience

  • Communicate intrinsic interest of subject matter

  • Provide thoughtful scholarly role model

  • Communicate original research or new developments

  • Organize material to meet the needs of students

  • Deliver large amount of information, if anyone is listening

  • Cost effective since many students can benefit from one teacher

  • Minimum threat to students

  • Effective for students who are auditory learners

In lectures, students remember

  • Material presented in the first 10-15 minutes and the last 5 minutes

  • Material presented extemporaneously rather than read from notes

  • Materials presented in variable voice (pitch, volume, intensity, speed)

  • Material presented in short sentences

  • Easier material better than difficult or complex ideas

Describe one example where you have been sure that your students (or yourself) have been actively engaged in learning.
What was it about this situation that promoted active learning?
Turn around to form groups of 3-4.
Take no more than 30 seconds per person to describe your active learning example.
Generalize: What are some common characteristics of active learning situations?

Big Ideas for Today’s Workshop

  1. Promoting “active learning” means that STUDENTS should be doing most of the THINKING in class, not the professor.

  1. Punctuating lecture with short periods of small group discussion focusing on thought provoking (“higher-order”) questions is a practical and effective way to increase active learning in large lecture classes.

  1. Teach the thinking skills of your discipline, not just its content (products).

  1. Thinking takes time. Teach less, better.

Faculty Role

Sage on the Stage
Learning is a noun


Guide on the Side
Learning is a verb



Sits inattentively


Listens attentively


Listens & takes literal notes

Makes Sustained effort to take paraphrased notes

Monitors self understanding & asks questions

Engages in analysis, generalization, synthesis, discussion or writing

Personally investigates, applies & evaluates subject matter



Lecture 5%

Reading 10%

Multimedia 20%

Demonstrations 30%

Discussions 50%

Practice by Doing 75%

Teach Others 90%

Bloom’s HIGH • EVALUATION – justify judgment

Taxonomy about complex ideas
• SYNTHESIS – link ideas to create a new concept
• ANALYSIS – identify components of a complex idea
• APPLICATION – use ideas in a new context
• COMPREHENSION – understand or explain ideas
LOW • KNOWLEDGE – recall ideas

The Montillation of Traxoline

(attributed to Judy Lanier)

It is very important that you learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristerlate large amounts of fevon and than bracter it to quasel traxoline. Traxoline may well be one or our most lukized snezlaus in the future because of our zionter lescelidge.
Directions: Answer the following questions in complete sentences. Be sure to use your best handwriting.

  1. What is traxoline?

  1. Where is traxoline montilled?

  1. How is traxoline quaselled?

  1. Why is it important to know about traxoline?

What are the BARRIERS to changing teaching behaviors in higher education?

  • Professional settings are stable: “Teachers teach the way they were taught”

  • Faculty can be self-enchanted

  • Faculty have little incentive to change

    • “We are all good teachers”

    • 80-90% of professors rate themselves as “above average” (Lake Wobegon Effect)

  • Feedback loop is stable since professors and students have same expectations

    • Passive lectures are easy for both students and faculty

    • “I won’t complain about bad teaching if you don’t make me work too hard” (Implicit Mediocrity Bargain)

  • Faculty self-definition is resistant to change

    • Researcher, thinker, intellectual, sage, scholar

    • Teaching “loads” versus research “opportunities”

  • Change in teaching arouses anxiety (for faculty and students)

  • Change in teaching is more work (for faculty and students)

  • Change in teaching is difficult to document

  • Change in teaching does not have high status and is often not rewarded

Factors influencing student evaluations of professors who lecture

  • Enthusiasm and/or rapport

    • learns student names

    • speaks clearly

    • relates material to real life

    • moves, gestures, varied presentation

    • verbalizes students feelings about materials

  • Organization

    • advance organizers

    • states objectives

    • uses headings

1. Match the level of questions (1-6) to the sample questions (A-F).

1. Knowledge – to recall or know

2. Comprehension – to understand or explain
3. Application – to use ideas
4. Analysis – to break into components
5. Synthesis – to form new ideas
6. Evaluation – to justify a judgment

A. What are the reasons scientists think dinosaurs went extinct?

B. How can you construct a straw and paperclip bridge that will support a 500 gram mass?
C. Can you identify all the simple machines in a can opener?
D. What is the crystal structure of these common minerals?
E. Should scientists use “extra” human embryos from fertility treatments for research on curing spinal cord injuries or diabetes?
F. Can you identify unknown plants with a dichotomous key?

2. How sure are you of your answers?

A. Positive

B. Pretty confident

C. Uncertain

D. Clueless

3. Share your ideas with a partner. Come to consensus on the answers.
4. How sure are you of your answers now?

A. Positive

B. Pretty confident

C. Uncertain

D. Still clueless

Suzanne Weber © 2004

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