Why are our students so passive in class?

Why are our students
so passive in class?
Better Content Learning through
Active Engagement
Jane Dillehay
10 August 2011
Force of habit:
we teach the way we were taught
• 1998 survey of 172,000 faculty (1)
• 76% listed lecture as primary instructional
method = passive learning
• Current cognitive research leads to an
• Overwhelming number of strategies for active
engagement and learning which equals
• Faculty paralysis
What is active learning?
• Students doing something besides attending a
lecture and taking notes.
• Students may be communicating or working
with each other, or writing, reading and
reflecting individually to learn and apply
course material.
• What is NOT active learning?
• Group study or group projects in which one or
two students do all the work.
Research shows that:
• Effect of active learning on memory after two
• We remember 10% of what we read
30% of what we watch
90% of what we do
• "Fears that students who had less exposure to
lecture would learn less proved to be groundless”
Research also shows improvements:
Student-faculty interaction
Student-student interaction
Academic achievement
Communication skills
Higher-level thinking skills
Attitude towards the subject and motivation
to learn. (4,5)
Connection between
active engagement and SLOs?
Language and Communication
Critical Thinking
Identity and Culture
Knowledge and Inquiry
Ethics and Social Responsibility
Why does active learning work?
• Individual students may get stuck on a
problem and give up but groups tend to keep
• Students learn alternative problem-solving
• Students are more willing to ask and answer
questions among themselves
• Students learn best when they teach each
Why am I lecturing
about active learning?
• Time to get to work!
• Several specific examples of active learning
Activity 1 : How do you learn the rules of
Learn the abstract principles OR
Learn by experiencing concrete examples for
Harvard style of citations (6)
Aardvark, J.R. (1980). Ants, and how to eat them. Journal of Orycteropodidae
Studies, 80, 11-17.
Barker, R. (1982). Rum babas, and what to do if you’ve got them. Reading:
Goodnight From Him.
Izzard, E. (1998). Cake or Death? Gateaunomics, 10, 195-196.
Lemur, R.-T. (2010). Strepsirrhinoplasty. Antananarivo: Rift Press.
Ofleberger, E. (1996). Die Wesentlichen Ungewissheiten Zugehorig der
Offenkundigen Mannlichkeit. Berlin: Bildungsverlag.
Shorty, G. (in press). Okay, so they got me. Los Angeles: Cadillac.
What are the rules for organizing this reference list? Identify five rules.
Some rules for
Harvard style citations
• Surname followed by initials.
• (Year of publication).
• Title of article.
• Title of journal (italics), its volume (italics),
page numbers.
Activity 2. Writing a lab report
What are the steps of the scientific method?
Activity 2
What are the steps of the lab report?
Literature Cited
To help you get started
• TITLE: Analysis of the distribution of cats per
car: an illustration of the mutual exclusivity
Activity 3: Pop quiz and memory test
• What % of faculty use lecture as the primary
method of instruction?
• 76%
• We remember _ % of what we read
__% of what we watch
__% of what we do
What have we learned so far?
• What are our concerns about active learning?
• Student academic preparation:
– Reading level and textbook
– Work ethic and class preparation
• The activities are fun but use up limited class
- Just a few minutes of active learning  major
differences in learning
• I have a professional obligation to cover
- Active learning and memory
30% of what we watch
90% of what we do
• My course content does not fit these activities
- Review your lectures and think of some
things you want to ask your students
• Students don’t like it
– Tell them why you are doing this
– Improved learning and better grades
• Lecturing is easy
– Learning curve – start with small and simple
– It takes time to develop your competence in active
Common mistakes
• Keep activities short (3-5 minutes)
– Too much time is a waste of class time
– Some finish in 3 minutes, others take forever
• Don’t call for volunteers to respond
– If students know that anyone may be called to
answer, they will do their best to be ready.
Your turn!
• Plan an activity for a course you will teach this
• Pick an active learning approach (next slide)
and develop an activity.
• Report back in five minutes to the class with
your idea.
Some active learning approaches
• Think-pair-share
– Individual work  pair up to discuss  share with
• Multiple choice question
– Small group discussion to choose correct answer
• Thinking-aloud pair problem solving
– Explainer and questioner
What have you learned now?
• Planning for fall semester – try ONE thing!
• Develop one activity for each class to support
a course concept
Time to wrap up
• Q and A TIME – any questions? Comments?
1. Finkelstein, M.J., R.K. Seal, and J. Schuster.
1998. The New Academic Generation: A
Profession in Transformation. Baltimore: The
John Hopkins University Press.
3. Lewis, S.E. and J.E. Lewis. 2005. Departing
form Lectures: An Evaluation of a Peer-Led
Guided Inquiry Alternative. Journal of
Chemical Education 82(1):135-39.
4. Barkley, E. 2010. Student Engagement
Techniques. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco
5. Prince, M. 2004. Does Active Learning Work?
A Review of the Research. Journal of
Engineering Education 93(3);223-31.
Other sources
• Silberman, M. 2005. 101 Ways to Make
Training Active. Pfeiffer, San Francisco.
• Bean, J. 1996. Engaging Ideas. Jossey-Bass,
San Francisco.
• Blumberg, P. 2009. Developing LearnerCentered Teaching. Jossey-Bass, San

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