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Carl Wieman Science Education Iniative: Active Learning, Pre-Class Reading, Clickers, Worksheets, Lecture Demonstration, Think-Pair-Share
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Our PHAS CWSEI team offers support for teaching and learning. Below you will find a brief overview of some of the key approaches we recommend. For more information, please contact Georg Rieger (rie...@physics.ubc.ca).
Research indicates that students learn more in an active learning environment. Why? It is important that the learner makes sense of the new knowledge and builds it into what he or she already knows (so-called constructive learning theory); this is something the professor cannot do for them. Hence students have to actively engage with the material in an effortful way. In an active learning environment, the instructor provides students with tasks that support this effortful engagement.
The main purpose of a pre-reading assignment is to prepare students for learning in your next class. Traditionally, students are introduced to a topic for the first time in lecture; however, students can read the textbook before coming to class – making lecture their second exposure. Students will get more out of lectures if they come to class knowing the basic definitions and physics vocabulary, as well as having had the chance to work through simple examples of concepts at their own pace. Learn more - "Pre-Reading Assignments – Why they may be the most important homework for your students" (.pdf)
Clickers are a very useful tool in an interactive class. Students use these devices to answer questions in class and the instructor gets immediate feedback on the students’ learning. It is crucial to use them in connection with a well-choreographed peer instruction approach for best results. Our CWSEI team offers peer instruction with clickers workshops tailored to our PHAS faculty.
In-class worksheets are a good way to actively engage students during lecture. Usually a worksheet contains a few questions and/or tasks related to a concept (or synthesis of concepts). The parts of the worksheet build on one another and provide a ‘scaffold’ for the students to explore the concept in depth. The instructor connects the parts of the worksheets by providing introductions, motivations, hints, explanations and summaries.
A popular way to enhance the lecture is to show a lecture demonstration. This can be turned into a good active engagement activity by having the students predict the outcome of an experiment (e.g. by using clickers). The activity requires a careful explanation of the experiment and a good experimental set up that is large enough so that students can see all the essential components.
An interactive approach without clickers is “Think-Pair-Share”. The key element is the peer discussion (“Pair”) that follows the individual pondering of a question (“Think”). In the “Share” part, the instructor asks several student groups (usually 2 – 4 students) to share their solution or their strategy with the class. This approach requires that students are comfortable speaking up in front of their peers and will probably work best in smaller upper year classes.
Our new P100 lab has an unusual structure and new content. A key feature of the new lab is that it has an eight-week formative learning part followed by a summative application in a four-week project. The formative sessions have: (1) content that builds up students’ experimental, communication and scientific skills from week to week, (2) lab homework that has students perform experiments at home with everyday equipment, and (3) inquiry tasks and clicker questions to enhance critical thinking. Our approach aims at helping students think and act like scientists; at the end of the course they should be able to design and carry out an experiment, analyze data, determine uncertainties, and present their findings to their peers. Read more about the new lab design...