Monday, November 29, 2010

Active learning



"There is no such thing as an unmotivated student. There are, however, students in unmotivated states" -- Eric Jensen. I truly agree with this statement. This is one of the common challenges that teachers face everyday. How do we deal with students in unmotivated state? I think this problem is more prevalent in a teacher-centered classroom environment, i.e., the traditional lecture method in which teacher/lecturer talk and students listen. In my class, I try to promote active learning approach. I try to incorporate some elements of active learning strategies, for example talking and reflecting. For example, at the beginning of each lecture, I will ask a volunteer to give a summary of pertinent points covered in the previous lecture. I allow the student to reflect on the central points of the class session and if necessary I will add some additional points. This will allow the students to connect what they have learned in the previous lecture and what they will learn in that particular lecture. I intersperse my lecture with questions designed to allow students to reflect on important points I have highlighted during the class session, share their reflections with surrounding classmates, and briefly discuss the insights gained from this activity as a group before continuing with my lecture.

J.P. Downing in his book "Creative Teaching: Ideas to Boost Student Interest" listed 30 tools for creative teaching (page 44). I will just summarize here: Storytelling, seminars, discussions, puzzles, problem solving, designing, ensemble design, dramatic reading, question reading, question stringing, story writing, creative elaboration, description, imagination, readers theater, choice mapping, ethical dilemmas, collaboratibe inquiry, case studies, reconstructive writing, fictional narrative, fictional correspondence, simulations, discovery labs, role-playing, scripts, ensemble biographies, enactments, and schematizing.

The author also listed six skills for creative teaching: managing, presenting, questioning, designing, running activities, and relating.

We can also leverage the technology such as clickers to get an instant feedback from the students. In the video below Dr Steve Vaisey shares his experience using an audience response system to engage students in active learning.


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