Our Active Learning Conference 2017 was an opportunity for delegates to share their successful active learning practices as well as research into active learning
Active learning focuses on students actively engaging in their learning through active problem-based learning, inverted or flipped classroom approaches, Team-Based Learning (TBL), SCALE-UP, and technology-enhanced active learning (TEAL).
The conference linked Team-Based Learning at University of Bradford, SCALE-UP at Nottingham Trent University and our own active learning practices. It was one of the seventeen projects funded by HEFCE's Catalyst Fund. Read more about the project on the Vice Chancellor's blog.
The Active Learning Conference aimed to:
The hashtag for the conference was #altalc.
View illustrations by Dr Michelle Fava and Natalie Eldred.
Professor Mike Sharples, The Open University
View the slides
with Simon Tweddell and Beck McCarter, University of Bradford
We should adopt active learning strategies to make best use of our time with our students so it is crucial that the tasks we set effectively deliver high levels of student engagement and challenge students to apply their learning.
In Team-Based Learning (TBL) we use the simple but effective 4S model to structure our tasks. This workshop will be delivered in a TBL format so that participants can explore the anatomy of 4S task design, experience at least two types of active learning tasks, and develop and use criteria to review tasks. Finally, we will share a peer review tool to aid future task development and signpost further resources.
with Professor Simon Lancaster, University of East Anglia
Prof Lancaster believes that the success of all active learning pedagogies depends on the nature of the questions we ask. Active learning is not about finding out what our students know but about providing opportunities for them to learn something new. To achieve this, a question needs to be conceptual in nature, requiring not recall but understanding and application. It also needs to be pitched at the right level. Too easy and everybody can answer. Too hard and nobody can answer. By employing questions in “The Goldilocks Zone”, we can lever the social dimension of the lecture theatre experience to collectively construct understanding. In this masterclass, we will discuss how to ensure the answers we select surface all the misconceptions. We’ll explore approaches to question co-creation with students and the forging of learning partnerships. Above all, Prof Lancaster practises what he preaches and the masterclass will be highly interactive.
with Jane McNeil, Michaela Borg, Ellie Kennedy and Zena Rashid, Nottingham Trent University
SCALE-UP is an active learning approach where students learn concepts using online materials before they come to class, and then apply them in a series of enquiry-based, problem-solving activities in the sessions.
In 2013, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) became the first UK University to pilot SCALE-UP in an institutional, multi-disciplinary project. Today, we’re also interested in the possibilities of using SCALE-UP alongside other active learning pedagogies to address unexplained disparities in progression and attainment.
In this masterclass, you will have the opportunity to:
Bradford introduced TBL to a final year Consultation Skills module to enhance engagement and the development of higher-level thinking skills. TBL is grounded in constructivist educational theory with students engaging with one another to solve authentic problems.
We used the TBL-SAI instrument to collect feedback from students about their accountability, preference for, and satisfaction with TBL (1). Examination results for two TBL cohorts were compared with two pre-TBL cohorts. Qualitative module evaluation data was analysed for common themes.
Results from the TBL-SAI showed student preference for and satisfaction with TBL and that students developed accountability to their team. Performance in examinations was 13% higher in the TBL cohort .
TBL was well received by Stage 4 MPharm students and it looks a promising pedagogy for delivering MPharm modules.
1. Mennenga, H. A., 2012. Development and psychometric testing of the team-based learning student assessment instrument. Nurse educator, 37(4), pp.168-172.
Fundamentals of Design is a core, first year undergraduate module for students in computer science. Focusing on systems analysis and design, pragmatic programming students commonly underestimated the depth of design thinking, and struggled to appreciate the assessment criteria.
We structured a set of ‘feedback cycles’ to engage students in feedback as collaborative peer assessment of low-stakes draft work, building towards an individually assessed case study.
Engaging in this schedule improved attendance and submission of assessment. Student feedback on the module reflected positively on the timetable of work, interactive environment, collaboration with peers, and perceived clarity of assessment criteria.
The activity was seen as an authentic representation of professional practice, and developed the sorts of soft skills sought by employers. Based broadly on the principles of active and team-based learning, we managed learner expectations and facilitated the transition towards the independent learning required for graduate study.
Learning through collaboration is increasingly recognised as a useful tool for improving engagement in students (e.g. Coorey, 2016). This presentation will describe the development of the Padlet Project, a collaborative active learning project run in conjunction with Technology Enhanced Learning at Sussex University. The Padlet Project aims to develop student’s digital literacy skills alongside their academic knowledge base. Students enter the seminar room and work in small groups to either consolidate or extend their knowledge of the seminar topic by producing a multimedia post for a Padlet wall which acts as an online noticeboard. Rather than focusing on the seminar papers in isolation, students create a resource bank of interactive activities, extended reading and links to real-world applications as a result. In this presentation, we will present the results of the most recent phase of the Padlet Project which integrates elements of team based learning into the project.
Our institution has been engaging in a process of teaching and learning redesign centred on supporting students to become active participants in their learning. One of the challenges has been providing spaces for students and teachers to support a variety of modes of active learning. Over the last three years, we have been researching and designing new spaces to support active learning inside and outside the classroom. Extending beyond the use of flexible furniture, this project has drawn on the critical importance of light, colour, technology, the outside world and imagery to support both active learning practices and the motivation of staff to try something different. This presentation will share findings from our pilot studies and provide attendees with a learning-in-action toolkit developed by our institution that supports the collaborative design of spaces for active learning.
In 2012, the Faculty of Engineering engaged all 900 1st year students in the Global Engineering Challenge (GEC), one week in which the students work in multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural teams to address real-world projects. The same students in their 2nd year, progress to the ‘Engineering You’re Hired’ week.
Intended to help equip the students with the global skills and knowledge required of graduate engineers, learning by experience but lacking the motivation of credit, the weeks had to be relevant, authentic and rewarding. Each ‘hub’ of 36 students had a trained PhD student to guide team working and facilitate interactive teaching, supported by industry and alumni.
After six iterations and a cohort increased to 1,500, we have evolved the weeks and improved the ‘cascade teaching’. Increased industrial involvement, enhanced student responsibilities including peer review and a new differentiated and individualised ‘assessment’ have all helped to improve student engagement.
We will show student evaluation from online questionnaires, gathered immediately after the week and also longitudinally. We will also seek audience advice on how more insightful evaluation of the holistic student learning might be reliably captured.
Students in the College of Engineering at Swansea University often spend more than a third of their contact hours in laboratories. Generally practical laboratory sessions are only seen as a way of re-enforcing material delivered in lectures. However, careful design of laboratories using a variety of pedagogical approaches deeply develop and enhance students’ practical, design and communication skills in a way that isn’t possible in other delivery formats. This session will report on how a new laboratory based module for medical engineers, ‘Biomedical Instrumentation’, was designed to employ new pedagogical approaches following attendance at a HEA event ‘STEM pedagogies: Best practice considerations’ at Southampton University in July 2016. The motivation for this work was to move to interactive laboratories through real-time collaborative design and problem solving activities to enable deep experiential learning experiences. It has included flipped blended learning, authentic assessment and problem-based learning. The instructors’ view of how the labs went in TB2 2017 will be compared to that of the students and used to improve the labs for 2018.
Public Thinking is a common, if under-theorised, component of active learning approaches such as SCALE-UP and TBL. Public thinking can be characterised as any activity which involves students in sharing conceptual development, solutions in progress, or ‘workings-out’ with peers for mutual critique and feedback. This is distinct from presenting a polished piece of work.
Although public thinking is not unique to SCALE-UP and TBL, these approaches offer a specific combination of pedagogies, environment and equipment that creates what SCALE-UP originator Bob Beichner calls ‘public thinking spaces’.
This workshop will both focus on and model public thinking. Participants will use digital and non-digital tools to explore selected concepts and refine these through peer critique. Topics will include: what is public thinking and how can physical space support it; what are the associated benefits and challenges; what skills might students/academics need in order to make public thinking effective.
This workshop will engage participants with the design of an active learning pedagogy that combines self-assessment and peer-instruction. Participants will experiment with constructing meaningful questions, which can maximise learning in the classroom, and support students in assessing their own competences. We will explore and experiment how student response systems can facilitate interaction between teachers and students. In the second part of the workshop, we will discuss methods to analyse the data collected through student response systems. The effectiveness of the pedagogy will be evaluated through simple measures of learning gain, confidence gain, and their association. The workshop will focus on a module in Introductory Macroeconomics at the University of East Anglia, but the principles of the pedagogy are not discipline-specific and can be applied in different many fields.
TBL is an established active and collaborative educational method. The TBL strategy involves a specific sequence of individual and team activities and multiple small groups in a single classroom setting.
Moodle, a learning platform, was configured to deliver TBL in-class readiness assurance tests. Medical students at the University of Dundee used their own internet-enabled devices to participate in the tests.
The workshop will demonstrate the added educational benefits of adopting this approach. Participants will be offered a hands-on experience of using their own internet-ready device (e.g. a tablet, a mobile phone or a laptop) to participate in a TBL process enhanced
By the end of the workshop participants should be able to:
(1) Describe the TBL approach.
(2) Evaluate the educational benefits of using a technology-enhanced approach to support the delivery of TBL.
(3) Identify opportunities within their own institution to implement a technology-enhanced TBL approach.
The term ‘Active learning’ can mean different things to different people. However, its meaning covers far more than Team-Based Learning (TBL). While TBL is an excellent and useful active learning method, this presentation will provide you with quick win ideas, based on the work of people such as Biech (2015), Dunlosky et al. (2013) and Wolff et al. (2015), who have identified how active learning can help improve educational outcomes, enabling students to reach their learning goals. Quick win active learning methods can easily be introduced into most seminars and lectures. They will not take you long to deliver or create, but can really enhance the students learning and understanding within a module and subject area. Additionally, this session will share tips and information to help you build confidence in adopting an active learning approach, sharing with you how active learning has transformed not only my approach to teaching, but also my module evaluation scores.
The traditional lecture environment tends to enable students to adopt a passive approach. As a pilot study with a group of students on a third year optional audit module, we undertook a pilot designed to help students make the link between the professional environment and the classroom. The students became active by taking on the role of professionals performing an audit as part of the formative assignment. This group assignment involved a variety of steps including interpreting the brief, visiting the client site, interacting with client personnel to obtain information, and preparing and presenting a report to management. The audit complemented the module which involved a series of group case studies designed to encourage students to apply their theoretical knowledge. The experience provided a range of opportunities to develop employability skills in a ‘real life’ environment which cannot be fully reproduced in a class situation. This contributed to enhancing the overall student experience and satisfaction and students who participated reported that the experience enhanced their understanding of the subject.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework for creating inclusive curricula with built-in flexibility and options to allow all learners to engage actively. We applied UDL to re-design a second year assessment in a module taken by ~250 highly diverse students. We created Ashley Tailor, a simulated student, with the public Twitter profile @ashley_tailor. The profile is inclusive, with gender and ethnicity being ambiguous. An accompanying newspaper article reveals Ashley is unconscious. The capstone assessment requires students to work actively in teams to deduce what happened to Ashley; critically analysing and integrating data from Twitter, a clue from each lecture block, clinical data from simulated blood and urine analyses which tests practical skills, and the contents of Ashley’s bin. The module survey this year revealed 100% of students found this case study “interesting and useful”. This kind of active, enquiry-based learning could be used on any course.
This session will review the transformational process of moving from formal lecture rooms to active learning classrooms. The University of Akureyri is located in the northern part of Iceland, with approximately 2,000 students. The University has been leading in co-teaching of distance and on campus students in Iceland. In recent years, the University has moved to flexible learning, with the focus shifting to the professional development of teaching to support staff and students. One of those projects is the creation of developmental classrooms with the aim of turning them into active learning classrooms (ALCs). We will go through the process of moving from formal classroom to an ALC, the different obstacles we faced, the importance of using research-based classrooms in this process and the importance of cooperation with key faculty and students. Early results from faculty and students that show positive responses to the ALCs will be reviewed.
This presentation considers the efficacy of an ambitious attempt to engage students in formal experiential and research opportunities during their university induction. Building on Lizzio’s work on student identity and motivation, we devised an active learning approach in order to create an environment in which students could collaborate with their peers and staff in order to conduct a small scale, pilot research project. This, in turn, engaged them with their field of study; their professional or vocational realm; co-curricula opportunities and with students from other fields and campuses. We reflect on feedback from all stakeholders to assess the extent to which these experiences enhance students’ sense of connectedness, capability, culture, resourcefulness and purpose. Students were overwhelmingly positive about becoming partners in the research process from the very start of their university journey. While many academic staff shared their enthusiasm, others remained sceptical and limited their involvement, suggesting that active learning approaches were a ‘sideshow’ to the ‘academic content’ that characterised their course.
Active learning has been shown to be effective in improving student learning when compared to more traditional lecture-based methods (Prince, 2004; White, 2015) but the link between active learning and better student engagement is still uncertain. Student ‘resistance’ to active learning has been blamed for slow adoption and even discontinuation of this pedagogy (Prince et al. 2014; Finelli et al. 2014; Borrego et al. 2010).
This study surveyed 240 students on level 4 engineering and level 5 engineering management modules and was designed to explore students’ attitudes to active learning through SCALE-UP pedagogy. Existing survey scales (Nguyen et al. 2016; Entwistle et al. 2013) were used to explore relationships between students’ ‘perceived value and positivity’ towards active learning and their levels of ‘actual participation’ in SCALE-UP sessions. This research also considered the impact of active learning on students’ assessment performance – as previously discussed by Freeman et al. (2014).
Effectively engaging students in Active Blended Learning (ABL) requires skilful design of sessions. Workshop participants will analyse approaches to ABL in light of factors that impact student engagement established in a qualitative study of over 200 students (Palmer, Lomer & Bashliyska, 2017). The study revealed students value: effective pedagogical design that clearly links the classroom and online components; strong relationships between staff and students; follow up on online tasks; and transparent pedagogy. Students’ conceptions of learning, teaching and knowledge impact on their engagement, and are not necessarily compatible with ABL principles which also needs to be addressed. These factors are complex, interdependent and have varying loci of control. Staff can increase the likelihood of student engagement, although certain factors remain within the agency of students. Designing to account for these factors is critical to the success of ABL. Participants will have an opportunity to develop their own design solutions.
This workshop will demonstrate how we have created a 360 degree work-based environment to engage students in problem-based learning on Canvas. Student nurses frequently request more skills lab time but they are a limited resource and we frequently cannot meet these requests. Creating a virtual skills lab allows participative problem-based learning and extends the use of the resource to the students’ home, allowing students to practice the skills ‘virtually’ before and after scheduled sessions. It also allows us to open up our campus resources to our distance learning students.
At its heart Chemistry is a problem solving subject. Traditional chemistry teaching consists of instructors working through problems in lectures, followed by students attempting similar problems which are handed in for marking and discussed in problem classes or tutorials. For many students the step from following an instructor tackle a problem to them tackling it themselves is a quantum leap. We decided that team-based learning, with its focus on problem solving in a team, would be an ideal way to help bridge the gap. This presentation will highlight our experience of adapting TBL for chemistry and chemistry for TBL, including the range of styles of MCQ questions developed and the use of visualisers to project team answers during application activities. From this we have developed a cogent problem solving pathway-instructor demonstration, TBL team approach, individual attempt with purple pens feedback and finally summative assessment in an exam.
Many are now questioning the relevance of the lecture in mainstream education as learners seek personalised interaction and feedback, and more flexible ways to study (Buitendijk, 2017). However, the answer is not to replace the lecture, but to reinvent it, using technology to empower both learners and teachers. Evidence is now emerging that use of engagement tools and learning analytics in lectures can have a significant impact on critical learning measures, such as early warning of student failure (Freeman et al, 2014; Samson, 2016), and boosting retention (HEC, 2016), while also increasing learning gain and exam scores (Montpetit, 2016). Students also value their ability to control the pace, place and mode of their learning (Gosper et al, 2009; Leadbeater et al, 2012; White, 2016), whilst receiving more immediate feedback on their progress (Jisc, 2016). This session will reveal how video, learning analytics and communication tools are transforming the lecture, engaging both on-site and distance learners, whilst impacting on student learning outcomes.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an educational framework for creating inclusive curricula with inbuilt flexibility and options to allow all learners to engage actively. We applied UDL to re-design a second year assessment in a module taken by ~250 highly diverse students. We created Ashley Tailor, a simulated student, with the public Twitter profile @ashley_tailor. The profile is inclusive with gender and ethnicity being ambiguous. An accompanying newspaper article reveals Ashley is unconscious. The capstone assessment requires students to work actively in teams to deduce what happened to Ashley; critically analysing and integrating data from Twitter, a clue from each lecture block, clinical data from simulated blood and urine analyses which tests practical skills, and the contents of Ashley’s bin. The module survey this year revealed 100% of students found this case study “interesting and useful”. This kind of active, enquiry-based learning could be used on any course.
The Higher Education Academy framework for retention identifies the need to engage students using active learning. Active learning is a recognised method used in the higher education sector to improve student engagement. Examples of pedagogically sound active learning methods include team-based learning, where students complete in-class readiness assurance tests both individually and within a team setting, followed by focussed application activities which are constructively aligned to the module and course learning outcomes.
To help address poor engagement and retention, the extended medical sciences degree has been redesigned to embed team-based learning as a method for providing formative feedback and personal learning logs to monitor academic progress for students in real-time during the teaching period. This workshop will explore the pedagogy behind the curriculum development and consider the impact of mapping course and module learning outcomes to ensure that learning and teaching material is constructively aligned and that assessment has relevance.
Participants in this workshop will perform an iRat, tRAT and a short Poll Everywhere application exercise where participants will be able to share their ideas for effective TBL design to support a general discussion and help inform future research into curriculum development.
In this hands-on session we will be demonstrating how students can be supported in actively driving their own inquiry and, through doing so, directing the process of own knowledge construction.
Equal focus is given to individual reflection and collaborative idea generation – we use the object-based learning activity to capture and de-construct the process of critical and creative inquiry.
These elements can be incorporated in a variety of activities and settings, in both humanities to sciences, from ‘warm up’ and study skills activities to assessment tasks.
This workshop looks at approaches to making effective use of a learning space for face-to-face teaching. It will take a different perspective for looking at learning spaces, and includes an opportunity to explore how to support active learning within a space and introducing the paradigm of the ‘third teacher’.
New learning environments need a more collaborative, inclusive approach to design and development that reflects how students engage with their learning. But there are challenges, not least with the view of many who do not accept the need to change their delivery to a more active approach. This workshop will address these issues by encouraging attendees to see a space from different perspectives, by evaluating two differing spatial types, and then discussing how they could be used for more effective face to face learning activities.