A convenient list of suggestions:
- Teacher-centred active learning strategies- activities in more extensive lectures
- Student-centred active learning strategies
- A concise bibliography on active learning
SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR ACTIVE LEARNING
Teacher-centred active learning strategies – activities in large lectures
- Ask students to review their notes to fill in the gaps and ensure they understand.
Write down one or two questions.
- At some point during the lecture, ask students to write down one or two questions they have up to that point in the lecture. Then, get the students to ask their neighbours questions until they answer satisfactorily.
Tackle a problem
- Put a problem or a case on the overhead projector. Get students to work on it on their own for a few minutes. Then, you can either get the class to work it out together, or students share it with their neighbours.
- Students can do several tasks this way. You can ask them to discuss a question, solve a problem, and share their experience. Students will work independently for the first one or two minutes, then share with someone sitting next to them. Some students can then report back to the class.
- Ask students to take 3 minutes to think about what they have dealt with so far.
- At the start of each class, ask students to write for 5 minutes in response to a question about the assigned readings.
- With five minutes left in the class, ask students to take out a piece of paper and_ answer two questions: What is one thing you have learned from today’s class? What is one question you have at this time?
Student-centred active learning strategies
- This activity can be done with the whole class or in small groups. Write down a problem or question on a flipchart or the board. Ask students to call out all ideas. Anything is valid and is recorded. Once contributions have stopped, go through the list with the students and edit to eliminate duplications, delete `impossible’ ideas, or sequence, rank and number them.
Buzz groups /small groups
Three basic ‘rules’ for any small group activity:
- instructions must be dear, straightforward and goal-oriented
- give students a set amount of time to work on the task
- groups must appoint a recorder and write down the results of the group to report back to the class (this ensures accountability)
- This strategy requires students to place themselves in a situation or take a committed position (not necessarily the one they would choose) on an issue in the course.
- For example, you can simulate a parliamentary commission on controversial or pending legislation, then assign interest, lobby or citizen groups to students to represent.
- Students working in pairs or small groups are given a proposition and a position (either for or against). They work in groups for about ten minutes (depending on the proposition) to create their arguments.
- Students on one side of the debate have 5 minutes to present their arguments.
- The other side has 3 minutes to revise their arguments if they need to; these students then have 5 minutes to present their arguments, including any rebuttal arguments;
- Students from the first side have 3 minutes to prepare a rebuttal and 2 minutes to present it.
- The moot is a variant of the debate used more regularly in the law school context. In this case, only one side has a rebuttal, and some students can sit on the panel of judges, having to render a derision after arguments have been presented.
- Jigsaw is one of many cooperative learning strategies; with jigsaw, each student works on one part of a learning task and then works collaboratively with other students to combine the various parts and complete the activity. Jigsaw is useful when dealing with a series of concepts for students to learn. Jigsaw encourages mutual interdependence of group members and individual accountability because each student must pay attention to what is going on in the ‘expert’ group to explain it to their ‘home’ group.
- Students form core groups of four to five members. Each member of the group is
- assigned a number from 1 to 4/5.
- Then, students will form expert learning groups comprising all members of core groups with the same number (i.e. all l’s, all two ′s, etc..). Each learning group discusses its part of the assignment.
- Students then return to their core group with their ‘expertise’ and contribute to completing the problem by sharing what they learned in the expert group.
A concise bibliography on active learning!
Bonwell, C.C. & Eison, J.A., Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.1 (Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development, 1991).
Bonwell, C., “Building a supportive climate for active lemming” (1996) 6:1 The National Teaching and Learning Forum 4-7.
Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F., “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (1987) 39:7 AAHE Bulletin 3-7.
Gibbs, G., Teaching More Students 2: Lecturing to More Students (Oxford: The Polytechnics & Colleges Funding Council, 1992).
Gibbs, G. & Jenkins, A. (eds), Teaching Large Classes in Higher Education: How to Maintain Quality with Reduced Resources (London: Kogan Page, 1992).
Gross Davis, B., Tools for Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1993).
Hativa, N. Teaching for Effective Learning in Higher Education (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000).
Johnston, S. & Cooper, J., “Quick-thinks: Active-thinking tasks in lecture classes and televised instruction” (1997) 8:1 Cooperative Learning and College Teaching 2-6.
Le Brun, M. & Johnstone, R., The Quiet Revolution: Improving Student Learning in Law (Sydney: The Law Book Company, 1994).
Weimer, M.G. (ed), Teaching Large Classes Well. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1987).
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