New Challenges to Active Learning Initiatives

A recent Educause article by our colleagues at Case Western Reserve University shared some interesting insights into their own fellowship program designed to integrate active learning techniques and foster increased student engagement.

While the first year of their Active Learning Fellowship (ALF) ended with rave reviews from the participants, student feedback following the second year brought some unexpected surprises.  Though second year participants again had an overall positive experience, they also encountered new challenges that could effect the future and expansion of active learning in some educational settings.

While faculty and students continued to enjoy “greater amounts of in-class and active group work, group projects, and interactions with peers regarding course-related content,” when compared with traditional courses, CWRU research showed that students responded unfavorably to integrating active learning techniques into conventional “regular” classrooms with a large class size (50-200 students).  Focus groups and surveys respondents both expressed a “relative dislike for the active learning techniques” used in these settings, though other factors, including the quality of pre-class activities, in-class activities, or instructor variables also contributed to the results.

Beyond the immediate ramifications to the ALF program, this research highlights the greater importance of space scheduling and design to the successful implementation of active learning techniques in the classroom.  As we continue to add more Active Learning Classrooms at Ohio State, we’re close paying attention to lessons learned by programs like Case’s ALF to inform our own designs and adoption of best practices.

Our first large size classroom, the Faculty Innovation Center, opens this summer, with classes to begin autumn semester 2016.  The fall schedule is complete and we’re excited to start working with instructors to engage students in this exciting new space.