In an effort to raise awareness of active learning pedagogies, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has declared October 25, 2016, Active Learning Day.
Active learning strategies proactively engage students’ minds on relevant concepts through in-class discussions and activities. By participating in active learning exercises, students receive formative feedback on their comprehension of course concepts in real-time. Knowing which concepts students grasp and which concepts students struggle with allows instructors to adapt their lesson plans and maximize the precious face-to-face time they have with their students.
When you teach, it’s natural to wonder how it’s going. Are the students getting it? Are they interested in the course content? Do they think the examples you are using are as illuminating as you do? If you are teaching this fall, consider collecting feedback from your students about their class experience so far. Now, 6-7 weeks from the beginning of the term, is a good time to solicit feedback. It is far enough into the semester that you’ve given yourself and your students time to adjust, but it is still far enough from the end of the term to give you time to tweak and adjust the course components if needed.
If you teach STEM courses in higher ed, Felder and Brent’s Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide is worth checking out. It’s essentially a one-stop shop for what you need to know to design and teach a course effectively. The book is filled with tips, examples, answers to common teaching questions, and citations of the relevant teaching and learning literature. It’s very skimmable and written in easy-to-read language. It covers topics such as writing learning objectives, planning for your class/lab sessions, active learning, ed tech, and how to help your students develop professional skills. Information on neuroscience and the science of learning is sprinkled throughout in sections called “Brainwaves”.