On 8 November 2018 I attended a seminar given by Professor Pauline Kneale, Emeritus Professor at the University of Plymouth, formerly Director of PedRIO and now also Honorary Visiting Professor with the Centre for Innovation in Higher Education (CIHE) at Anglia Ruskin University. This seminar was part of Talking about Teaching: The Innovation Series, a collaboration between Anglia Learning & Teaching and CIHE.
'Active Learning – integrating research and practice' had an agenda which was, in the words of Pauline herself, “ambitious”. This was a highly informative and engaging session covering a broad range of active learning literature, theories and other aspects.
After asking participants to share their motivations for attending the seminar, Pauline guided the attendees through key literature in the field. The information was introduced in a way to show attendees how to draw upon the literature in order to persuade others, be that colleagues or institutional leaders, to adopt this teaching and learning approach. Referring to early work such as Dale’s (1969) Cone of Learning, attendees were signposted to various works relating to student-centred learning approaches. Beginning with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for learners and ending with Hart’s ladder of participation (1994), Pauline’s magical mystery tour of active learning pedagogies stopped along the way to consider the social constructionist perspective, design thinking and story-telling and Hattie and Donoghue’s model of learning (2016).
Pauline paused to introduce her top picks for relevant active learning resources, including the journal Active Learning in Higher Education, before continuing on to talk about student alignment. Speaking from the perspective that students are not a homogenous mass, she highlighted the importance of literature regarding the generational characteristics of learners, for example key differences between Generation K and Generation Y. This segued fluidly into a discussion about the student voice.
Sharing her advice on how to get started with active learning, Pauline suggested lecturers start with understanding their motivation for using the approach, i.e. what capabilities are you seeking to enhance? Attendees were encouraged to think about turning that into a learning outcome. Pauline shared some tips in devising active learning activities, for example, setting 'wicked', rather than 'tame', problems. These are the difficult, complicated problems which are perhaps impossible to solve and to which you do not have the answer when you set the problem. A further tip was using authentic assessment, matching the activity to the workplace. Pauline concluded the session by sharing illustrative case study examples from her own portfolio to demonstrate how authentic assessments can be devised to develop transferable skills, for example, decision-making.
Overall, a well-attended and thoughtful session which gave a rounded introduction to active learning for anyone considering giving it a go for the first time or keen to develop their practice. Pauline’s slides, along with other resources from previous Talking about teaching seminars, can be found here on our website.