Active Learning:Techniques for Enhancing LecturesAcademic Senate for California Community CollegesStudent Success Across the Curriculum InstituteFebruary 25-26, 2011San JosePresented by:Joan Córdova & Candace Lynch-Thompson1
Used with permission from:Donald R. PaulsonChemistry and BiochemistryCalifornia State University, L.A.5151 State University DriveLos Angeles, CA 90032[email protected]Jennifer L. FaustDepartment of PhilosophyCalifornia State University, L.A.5151 State University DriveLos Angeles, CA 90032[email protected]BACKGROUND & DEFINITIONSThe past decade has seen an explosion of interest among college faculty in theteaching methods variously grouped under the terms 'active learning' and 'cooperativelearning'. However, even with this interest, there remains much misunderstanding of andmistrust of the pedagogical "movement" behind the words. The majority of all collegefaculty still teach their classes in the traditional lecture mode. Some of the criticism andhesitation seems to originate in the idea that techniques of active and cooperativelearning are genuine alternativesto, rather than enhancements of, professors' lectures.We provide below a survey of a wide variety of active learning techniques which can beused to supplement rather than replace lectures. We are not advocating completeabandonment of lecturing, as both of us still lecture about half of the class period. Thelecture is a very efficient way to present information but use of the lecture as the onlymode of instruction presents problems for both the instructor and the students. There isa large amount of research attesting to the benefits of active learning."Active Learning" is, in short, anything that students do in a classroom other than merelypassively listening to an instructor's lecture. This includes everything from listeningpractices which help the students to absorb what they hear, to short writing exercises inwhich students react to lecture material, to complex group exercises in which studentsapply course material to "real life" situations and/or to new problems. The term"cooperative learning" covers the subset of active learning activities which students doas groups of three or more, rather than alone or in pairs; generally, cooperative learningtechniques employ more formally structured groups of students assigned complextasks, such as multiple-step exercises, research projects, or presentations. Cooperativelearning is to be distinguished from another now well-defined term of art, "collaborativelearning", which refers to those classroom strategies which have the instructor and thestudents placed on an equal footing working together in, for example, designingassignments, choosing texts, and presenting material to the class. Clearly, collaborativelearning is a more radical departure from tradition than merely utilizing techniquesaimed at enhancing student retention of material presented by the instructor; we willlimit our examples to the "less radical" active and cooperative learning techniques.