Sep 262011

Papers worth reading about on Active and Cooperative Learning

 Brecke, R.; Jensen, J. 2007. Cooperative Learning, Responsibility, Ambiguity, Controversy and Support in Motivating Students. Student Motivation, 2, pp 57-63.

 This paper argues that student motivation is nurtured more by intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards. Rather than relying on grades alone to stimulate students, this paper explores how engendering a natural critical learning environment can give students a sense of ownership in their own learning and lead to their commitment to that learning. We examine uses of cooperative learning, shared responsibility, ambiguity, controversy and support in student motivation.

 Christopher, D.A. 20011. Interactive Large Classes: The Dynamics of Teacher/ Student Interaction. Journal of Business & Economics Research, Volume 1 (8), pp 81-98.

The purpose of this paper is to show that there are many techniques and methods to use in stimulating interest and effective learning outcomes in large classes. The paper addresses several alternative teaching formats such as: active learning, collaborative learning, interactive learning which encourage student interaction in the traditional lecture environment. The paper discusses how the web can be used as an instructional tool in large classes to motivate students to find resources, conduct webquests, complete time certain email assignments, and engage in active in-class discussions.

 Cooper, J.L.; Robinson, P. Spring 2000. Getting Started: Informal Small-Group Strategies in Large Classes. New Directions for Teaching and, no. 81, Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp 17-24.

 I got started with discussion pairs in chemistry about ten years ago when I took over teaching the big introductory classes of several hundred students. I got started gradually by working a problem with the students and then giving the students one to work on themselves together with their neighbors sitting next to them. Now these activities underpin every class I teach. What propelled me into this was watching colleagues in lecture working a problem on the board: I saw it going into the students’ eyes, down their arms and into their notebooks, but their understanding of the problem was bypassing their brains! Over and over, I saw the students not be able to do similar problems in the tutorial the very next day [Helen Place, personal interview with the authors, Sept. 1998].

 Cooper, J.L.; Macgregor, j.; Smith, K.A.; Robinson, P. Spring 2000. Implementing Small-Group Instruction: Insights from Successful Practitioners. New Directions for Teaching and, no. 81, Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp 63-76.

 As we talked with faculty members around the country who are enlivening their classes with small-group work, they described their approaches with enthusiasm and confidence. Yet faculty members, who are skeptical about these approaches, and even those tentatively interested in trying them, still raise important concerns about both the philosophy and the actual strategies of undertaking group work. “It really can’t be that easy, can it?” they ask, quite rightfully. A frequent concern that surfaces in many discussions about small group learning has to do with the assumption that if you are in favour of it, you are de facto opposed to the lecture in any form. This presumption of the new truth is hardly the attitude that will bring about the kind of institutional change that we are hoping for in the coming years. All the teachers we interviewed believe deeply in small-group learning but also spend a significant amount of time lecturing, leading whole-class discussions, and engaging in other kinds of teaching approaches. This is our practice as well.  Lecture and small-group work must be framed as both/and endeavours, not either/or ones; yet somehow the message is too often sent that to be in favour of small-group learning is to be completely anti-lecture.  In this chapter we will address a number of concerns about using small-group work that have emerged in the professional literature and that we have encountered as we discussed this approach with colleagues. We will address these concerns based in part on our reading of the literature, but more particularly on the experiences of the practitioners whose approaches are featured in this volume.

 Cooper, J.L. & Robinson, R. Spring 2000.The Argument for Making Large Classes Seem Small. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 81, Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp 5-16.

 Maria Bravo is hurrying to Dr. Robert Webking’s Introduction to Politics class this warm October morning. She is among 560 students taking this fall 1998 class at the University of Texas, El Paso. She arrives a few minutes early and is given a handheld computer after presenting her student identification card to the teaching assistant. Webking often begins the class with a short, multiple-choice quiz on the assigned reading. On this day, however, he begins by lecturing on the day’s topic: the concept of freedom as articulated by Plato. After about fifteen minutes, he shows a multiple-choice question on a large overhead screen asking students whether freedom should be absolute for all human beings or whether it should be dependent on several extenuating circumstances. The class is given a minute to reflect on the question, and Maria then enters her response on the computer. Two students sitting beside her use the computer to enter their responses. Students throughout the classroom are doing the same thing, and within a minute or two Webking has hundreds of responses. These answers are tallied by the computer and shown on the screen. As Webking expects based on prior semesters’ experiences, most students indicate that freedom should be absolute for all human beings. He then displays a brief cartoon of an infant crawling toward a can of Drano that is in a cupboard under a sink. The class, 65 percent of whom had chosen the absolute freedom response, chuckle ruefully and buzz among themselves. Webking invites the students to discuss briefly, in pairs or trios, the question just posed and to determine whether they would like to change their answers. After a minute or so, he continues lecturing for another fifteen minutes before posing another question to the students. Webking notes that this class, composed of 70 percent Latino students (the all-campus average) has about 80 percent of the students in attendance. Before he initiated this active-learning methodology using Class talk—the computer instructional system just described—the student attendance was about 50 percent. Webking also reports that his students’ exam scores are higher since he initiated his cooperative-learning procedures and that his teaching evaluations are overwhelmingly positive. Time on task (giving full attention to the lecture or activity) has also improved, even for students sitting in the last row.

 Crouch, C.H. & Mazur, E. September 2001. Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Association of Physics Teachers, 69 (9), pp 970-977

 We report data from ten years of teaching with Peer Instruction ~PI! in the calculus- and algebra-based introductory physics courses for nonmajors; our results indicate increased student mastery of both conceptual reasoning and quantitative problem solving upon implementing PI. We also discuss ways we have improved our implementation of PI since introducing it in 1991. Most notably, we have replaced in-class reading quizzes with pre-class written responses to the reading, introduced a research-based mechanics textbook for portions of the course, and incorporated cooperative learning into the discussion sections as well as the lectures. These improvements are intended to help students learn more from pre-class reading and to increase student engagement in the discussion sections, and are accompanied by further increases in student understanding.

 Dufresne, R.J.; Gerace, W.J.; Leonard, W.J.; Mestre, J.P. and Wenk, L. 1996. Class talk: A Classroom Communication System for Active Learning. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 7(3-47), pp 1-26.

 Traditional methods for teaching science courses at the post-secondary level employ a lecture format of instruction in which the majority of students are passively listening to the instructor and jotting down notes. Current views of learning and instruction challenge the wisdom of this traditional pedagogic practice by stressing the need for the learner to play an active role in constructing knowledge. The emerging technology of classroom communication systems offers a promising tool for helping instructors create a more interactive, student-centered classroom, especially when teaching large courses. In this paper we describe our experiences teaching physics with a classroom communication system called Class talk. Class talk facilitated the presentation of questions for small group work, as well as the collection of student answers and the display of histograms showing how the class answered, all of which fed into a class-wide discussion of studentsÕ reasoning. We found Class talk to be a useful tool not only for engaging students in active learning during the lecture hour, but also for enhancing the overall communication within the classroom. Equally important, students were very positive about Class talk-facilitated instruction and believed that they learned more during class than they would have during a traditional lecture.

 Durning, S.J. & Ten Cate, O.J. 2007. Peer teaching in medical education. Medical Teacher, 29: pp 523–524.

 No Abstract.

 Fagen, A. P.; Crouch, C.H.; Mazur, E. April 2002. Peer Instruction: Results from a Range of Classrooms. The Physics Teacher, 40, pp 206-209.

 No Abstract.

 Johnson, D.W.; Johnson, R.T. & Smith, K. 2007. The State of Cooperative Learning in Postsecondary and Professional Settings. Educ Psychol Rev, 19, pp 15–29.

 Modern cooperative learning began in the mid- 1960s (D. W. Johnson & R. Johnson, 1999a). Its use, however, was resisted by advocates of social Darwinism (who believed that students must be taught to survive in a “dog-eat-dog” world) and individualism (who believed in the myth of the “rugged individualist”). Despite the resistance, cooperative learning is now an accepted, and often the preferred, instructional procedures at all levels of education. Cooperative learning is being used in postsecondary education in every part of the world. It is difficult to find a text on instructional methods, a journal on teaching, or instructional guidelines that do not discuss cooperative learning. Materials on cooperative learning have been translated into dozens of languages. Cooperative learning is one of the success stories of both psychology and education. One of the most distinctive characteristics of cooperative learning, and perhaps the reason for its success, is the close relationship between theory, research, and practice. In this article, social interdependence theory will be reviewed, the research validating the theory will be summarized, and the five basic elements needed to understand the dynamics of cooperation and operationalize the validated theory will be discussed. Finally the controversies in the research and the remaining questions that need to be answered by future research will be noted.

 Karl A. Smith. Spring 2000. Going Deeper: Formal Small-Group Learning in Large Classes. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 81, Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp 25-46.

 To teach is to engage students in learning; thus teaching consists of getting students involved in the active construction of knowledge. A teacher requires not only knowledge of subject matter but knowledge of how students learn and how to transform them into active learners. Good teaching, then, requires a commitment to systematic understanding of learning. . . . The aim of teaching is not only to transmit information but also to transform students from passive recipients of other people’s knowledge into active constructors of their own and others’ knowledge. The teacher cannot transform without the student’s active participation, of course. Teaching is fundamentally about creating the pedagogical, social, and ethical conditions under which students agree to take charge of their own learning, individually and collectively [Christensen, Garvin, and Sweet, 1991, pp. xiii, xv, xvi].

 Macgregor, J. Spring 2000. Restructuring Large Classes to Create Communities of Learners. New Directions for Teaching and, no. 81, Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp 47-61.

 No Abstract.

 Meltzer, D.E.; Manivannan, K. 2002. Transforming the lecture-hall environment: The fully interactive physics lecture. American Association of Physics Teachers, 70 (6), pp 639-654.

 Numerous reports suggest that learning gains in introductory university physics courses may be increased by ‘‘active-learning’’ instructional methods. These methods engender greater mental engagement and more extensive student–student and student–instructor interaction than does a typical lecture class. It is particularly challenging to transfer these methodologies to the large-enrolment lecture hall. We report on seven years of development and testing of a variant of Peer Instruction as pioneered by Mazur that aims at achieving virtually continuous instructor– student interaction through a ‘‘fully interactive’’ physics lecture. This method is most clearly distinguished by instructor–student dialogues that closely resemble one-on-one instruction. We present and analyze a detailed example of such classroom dialogues, and describe the format, procedures, and curricular materials required for creating the desired lecture-room environment. We also discuss a variety of assessment data that indicate strong gains in student learning, consistent with other researchers. We conclude that interactive-lecture methods in physics instruction are practical, effective, and amenable to widespread implementation.

 Messineo, M.; Gaither, G.; Bott, J. and Ritchey, K. 2007. Inexperienced versus experienced students’ expectations for active learning in large classes. College Teaching, 55 (3), pp 125-133

 Findings from a survey of undergraduates demonstrate links between students’ experience level and their perceptions and expectations of large classes. The authors made a number of hypotheses, including that students prefer active-learning experiences but expect passive-learning experiences, that experienced students prefer large classes but demonstrate less commitment to them, and that students view low-level skills as more important than high-level skills in large classes. Findings supported the hypotheses, and implications of these findings as they relate to pedagogy in large classes are discussed

Macgregor, J. Spring 2000. Restructuring Large Classes to Create Communities of Learners. New Directions for Teaching and, no. 81, Jossey-Bass Publishers, pp 47-61.

 In a number of new initiatives, the problems of a fragmented curriculum and student isolation in existing large classes are addressed through peer-facilitated learning opportunities, or more ambitiously, by restructuring the curriculum to create linked classes.

 Nicol, D.J. October 2003. Peer Instruction versus Class-wide Discussion in Large Classes: a comparison of two interaction methods in the wired classroom Studies in Higher Education Volume 28, No. 4 pp457-47.

 Following concerns about the poor conceptual understanding shown by science students, two US research groups have been experimenting with the use of ‘classroom communication systems’ (CCSs) to promote dialogue in large classes. CCS technology makes it easier to give students immediate feedback on concept tests and to manage peer and class discussions. Improvements in conceptual reasoning have been shown using these methods. However, these research groups have each piloted different discussion sequences. Hence, little is known about which sequence is best and under what circumstances. This study compares the effects of each sequence on students’ experiences of learning engineering in a UK university. The research methods included interviews, a survey and a critical incident questionnaire. The results demonstrated that the type of dialogue and the discussion sequence have important effects on learning. The findings are discussed in relation to social constructivist theories of learning and in relation to the implications for teaching in wired classrooms.

 Oakley, B.; Felder, R.M.; Brent, R.; Elhajj, I. 2004. Turning Student Groups into Effective Teams. Journal of Student Centered Learning, 2 (1), pp 9-34.

 No Abstract