Walk into any classroom, be it either higher-ed or grade school, you’re likely to find an instructor lecturing or teaching the class on a particular subject-matter. Courses are arranged with at-home readings, in-person lectures and assignments that students complete outside of class for the most part. What is striking is that the arrangement of learning has not changed. Today students are inundated with information, both constructive and not-constructive, so the roles of teachers and professors as subject-matter experts have evolved. If you were to ask a student how relevant the information that was presented in a class was to them, many would agree that there is a disconnect between the way instructors teach theories and the relevancy of the theories or facts in today’s world. If students feel like that value of their learning isn’t applicable, relevant or relatively eye-catching, their minds are likely to wander, and in-turn become disengaged with in-class material.
To combat student disengagement inside the classroom, many educators have turned to active learning as a formula for not only improving how students learn, but an opportunity to keep them engaged while inside of the classroom. Active learning was derived from the concept that students should be actively applying course concepts while in class, rather than just listening to a lecture and taking notes.
Kinesthetic learning – it’s not a new concept
Active learning or alternatively known as Kinesthetic learning, is not a new concept. In fact, many of us were taught using the principles of kinesthetic learning. Do you remember your days in kindergarten, or your early grade school days? Myself, and many students remember those years fondly as opportunities to build and construct things - we were drawing and painting pictures, building bridges out of toothpicks & marshmallows, or trying to learn new instruments by playing them. As children, we were presented with in-class projects and how to complete them, and then we were left to our own devices to complete said project. However, as we got older, learning shifted away from actively doing or making things to listening and note-taking while inside the class.
For higher-ed students the learning and understanding that is derived from completing an assignment, writing and researching a paper is often done outside of the classroom. Educators today are advocating to bring more of that self-applied learning into the classroom to reduce the amount of time spent lecturing.
This shift in thinking is also highlighted by current events; the COVID Pandemic which forced many schools to close and their students to learn online, has caused many students to feel disengaged with course materials as a result of online classes. We want to give you some tips to implement more active learning in your classroom today, regardless if you are teaching in-person or online.
Create fun & engaging games for students to apply their knowledge in, such as quick quizzes on class readings. Games are not only fun and engaging, it’s an opportunity for instructors to see in real-time how their class is interacting with course materials – do they understand it, does a change or greater classification need to be made? These questions are answerable with assessment & engagement tools like quick quizzes or games.
The minute paper
Another opportunity for instructors to gauge how well their class is comprehending their material is by asking them to write a minute paper. Typically 1 to 2 questions long, the minute paper may ask students what they learned during the class and which concepts still aren’t clear. By implementing an assignment like this, instructors are able to see how well the class understands the materials, as well, by forcing students to recount the learnings from a lecture and distill them in a few sentences, also aids in student learning and comprehension of the material.
Utilizing peer-to-peer assessment is a useful tool in helping students gain a wider perspective on course concepts. Each student, with their own unique background and individual learnings, apply their knowledge to assess their peers’ work. In return, students are exposed to new ideas, or approaches that may not have been discussed in class.
Peer assessment can be difficult to monitor for accuracy if students aren’t guided directly. Kritik’s peer review platform calibrates each student's assessment to ensure each student receives a fair and accurate grade on their assessments.
Debates aren’t just fun to watch, they also require students to prepare effectively to ensure they are successful. Perhaps a subset of education games, debates are commonly used as a barometer to see how well course concepts are understood by students. To succeed in a debate, surface-level information will not be enough to win, debaters must understand at a deeper level the intricacies of a topic or theory to be able to successfully defend their point of view. Debaters must understand the concept itself; common objections or cons of the concept; and be able to construct arguments against those common objections to be successful.
Active learning in your classroom
The above recommendations are just some of the ideas available to instructors to create a more dynamic and engaging learning environment that helps students learn more effectively. As the fall semester gets underway, it is an opportunity for instructors to create new learning environments for their students. With online learning likely to be the scenario most professors will find themselves in, the need to engage your students more beyond just a zoom lecture is ever-most pertinent. Online learning has shown to diminish student learning, and its effects can last for years to come. Active learning tools are proven tips to boost classroom engagement, while improving student learning.