Monday, April 27, 2015

Active Learning Activities - Kelly Murray, Biology

It isn’t often that I employ personal opinions on this blog; as I’m constantly reminded in the CETL office, my opinions are only valuable if they are accompanied by a handful of M&M’s or the delivery of a fresh cup of coffee.* But for this post, I will indulge myself and give my opinion as an undergraduate student who has spent a lot of time in the classroom. And as an undergraduate student who has spent a lot of time in the classroom, I can tell you that the best class periods are the ones that end with you wishing you had a little more class time.** Kelly Murray, Department of Biology, has that very good problem with the active learning activity depicted below:

Setting: Discussions utilizing pod groups (5 pods with 4 students per pod) and whole class

Setup for the activity: Prior to the in-class activity, students completed 2-3 readings and posted two questions/comments to a D2L Discussion board outside of class.

How the activity unfolded in the classroom: The group in charge of facilitating that day's discussion gave a brief introductory presentation (typically using PowerPoint and video clips) on the large screens. Pod groups were given discussion questions/tasks. These often included one or more tasks in which group members were asked to list or diagram on the whiteboard. A large-group discussion followed with each group sharing information from their pod discussion and whiteboard notes.

After the activity: At the conclusion of in-class discussion, students were provided with 1-2 prompts; each student was asked to reflect on the discussion as part of a 1-page response paper which was submitted to the D2L Dropbox by the following evening. The material from the in-class discussions was also covered on unit exams.

Additional comments from instructor: "This was a 1hr 15minute class period – but we were short on time – my main issue with the activity. I was pleased, though, with the process and felt students approached the discussion from a more-informed perspective. I prefer this versus a lecture where I show a bunch of graphs, etc. to outline evidence.

*The people of CETL have never actually requested me to fetch a cup of coffee, and actually value my opinions quite frequently. I truly fulfill the role of “oppressed intern” only in my imagination.

**this of course bars any class periods that contain graded work such as labs and tests. Ironically, the opposite effect is true in these cases: these are the worst class periods.

Tip provided by: Kelly Murray
Write-up by: Jon Pumper

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