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Tag: active learning

teaching Strategies
active learning techniques
learner-centered teaching
active learning in the classroom
why do students resist active learning?
Activities to get students thinking
tug of war
active learning project
green umbrella standing out
students working in group
Let's start with an example. In a recent issue of College Teaching, Forrest Cooper describes how he modified the well-known and widely used “Think-Pair-Share” strategy. It continues to be an effective way to get students talking with each other about course content. But Cooper's goal was to make the strategy even more learner-centered. In his modified version students come to class with two questions based on their assigned reading. The “think” part at this stage involves generating questions other than those that can be answered with simple recall. Class opens with students “pairing” and then asking and answering each other's questions. Next, the students count off and form groups of about five but not with their partner in the group. The group answers every member's questions and then selects the two “best” questions that they will ask the instructor. Cooper answers the first couple of questions directly but then he starts using the questions to open class discussion. He reports that since students have been selecting the questions, their investment in the activity has increased. He also thinks that having students work on the questions in groups has improved the quality of their questions overall. This use of “Think-Pair-Share” holds students accountable for doing the reading and it then uses the assigned reading as a foundation for what will be covered in class. This modified version of the strategy gets even more student interaction and it's designed to develop question-asking skills. Faculty regularly modify strategies, making them work with course content and responsive to the learning needs of students. Most teachers make modifications almost automatically, guided by an intuitive sense of what will and won't work given the content, the students, and the teacher. And that's fine, but what if the process were a bit more systematic and thoughtful? It could start with why the strategy was selected in the first place. Why is it being used? What were the intended goals? To what extent are those goals being accomplished—from the teacher's perspective and from the students' perspectives? Next, the strategy can be dissected, taken apart at the seams. What routinely happens when students “Think-Pair-Share?” If that's not all it could or should be, what could be changed? What about giving students a scenario to discuss, or three solutions to the problem or two potential exam questions to answer? Maybe the sharing needs to be broader? How might it work if three students were involved? Even small design details can make a difference. How often should a strategy like this be used? When should it be used? Should you ease students into the content at the beginning of the period or give them a break in the middle? Could it occur online? What happens if students always share with the same person, or always do it with a different person? It's easy for teaching strategies to fall into comfortable ruts. We know how we use them. It's a part of class prep we don't have to worry about. We do it as we've done it before. That works for a while, but then it doesn't work as well as it once did. That should signal that it's time to modify the strategy, to fiddle with parts—fix, repair, or replace. And suddenly an old faithful like “Think-Pair-Share” offers students a whole new learning experience. Reference: Cooper, F. (2018). A modification of “Think-Pair-Share” to make it more learner-centered by using student-generated questions. College Teaching, 66 (1), 34.