Friday, February 22, 2008

Passive Learning

For centuries passive learning has been a favored approach of teaching at the unversity level. Faculty members would teach large groups of students in lecture halls. There would be essentially no interaction, no engagement, no active learning. Take a moment to view this video produced by Michael Wesch's cultural anthropology class last spring at Kansas State University. It explains well that passive approaches do not succeed with the 21st century student.

More on the study here:

Passive Learning / Active Learning

Despite overwhelming research (and common sense) that passive learning is less effective than active learning, many classes emphasize passive approaches.

Passive approaches emphasize:
  • Lectures
  • Readings
  • Watching video
  • Listening to audio
  • Observing demonstrations

Active approaches emphasize:

  • Interaction through discussion
  • Student<->student / faculty<->student interactions
  • Student presentations
  • Group projects
  • Simulations
  • Problem solving

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Teaching

The now famous seven principles for good practice in undergraduate teaching published by Chickering and Gamson in the mid 1980s recognized the importance of engaging students through what we now call active learning approaches.

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. encourages active learning
  4. gives prompt feedback
  5. emphasizes time on task
  6. communicates high expectations
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning

There are some fine examples in the original article (linked above).

Constructivism Online

The constructivist approach also strongly supports active learning. Based in social constructivism of the early and mid 20th century, this approach to teaching and learning suggests that we, as instructors, do not impart knowledge, rather we help our learners to build thier own personal knowledge. We can best do that through active learning.
  1. Knowledge involves active cognizing by the individual.
  2. Knowledge is adaptive, facilitating individual and social efficacy.
  3. Knowledge is subjective and self-organized, not objective.
  4. Knowledge acquisition involves both sociocultural and individual processes.

There are some great examples linked above.

A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

In 2004, Canadian educator George Siemens published his thoughts on a new learning theory he called Connectivism. It posits that the pipe is more important than the content of the pipe. And it is based on these principles:
  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

Transforming Pedagogy through Social Software

The advent of Web 2.0 opens whole new horizons to the ways in which we can engage and interact with students. The technologies create the possibility to more fully implement active learning. Through social networking tools, we can expand "connectivity, communication, and participation." In the ning linked to the title of this posting, you will find an array of social software tools (with plenty of examples) of how the new online tools can create a new perspective for the pedagogy that drives our approach to teaching and learning.

Mode Neutral Pedagogy

There appears to be a new movement developing in which courses are designed as "delivery mode neutral." That is, that the design of on ground, blended and online classes can fully utilize the same tool set so that students can move from one mode to another. Even if distant students cannot move among the modes, this approach helps to assure that content and experiences in classes delivered through the different modes are equivalent. The article linked to the title of this posting is one of the first in this area.

Web 2.0 Puts Pressure on Course Management Systems

A course management system is used by many colleges and universities as a kind of toolbox of technologies and organizational structure for online classes. But, there is a trap. One has to ask, are these the right tools? Are they organized and presented in a way that is consistent with the pedagogy we seek to implement? Is content aligned with the tools in a naviation bar, or is the content integrated into modules that scaffold the learning with a wide array of connections and resources each step along the way? This article linked to this posting title examines the CMS/LMS in the context of the advent of Web 2.0 and hints at the future.

Active Learning Power Point - Oxymoron?

You noticed, perhaps, that I am not using ppt. I find it confining, rigidly serial, and not inherently interactive. Blogs on the other hand are read online with hyperlinks active, easy to scroll through postings (the equivalent of ppt slides), have built-in comment functionality, provide built-in RSS feeding, and invite linking with other sites.

These features of blogs promote engagement, interactivity, reflection, review, commentary, linking to examples -- all qualities of active learning!

Having written that, the linked site is one from the University of Minnesota about how one can make ppt a tool for active learning!

Bloom's Taxonomy Revised - Actively!

The American Psychological Association has a great resource (linked above) with some revisions that are tailored to our active learning pursuits. You will see that the highest order is now CREATE rather than evaluate and the term knowledge has been more aptly re-named REMEMBER.

The taxonomy circle is a most useful tool. Note that it combines the non-active roles of remember and understand - and separates out each of the active roles of:
  • Apply
  • Analyze
  • Evlauate
  • Create

Let's take a few minutes now to do some active learning ourselves! Would a couple of you come forward to give an example of how you address one or more of these activities in an online class?

(those reading the blog after the live session might put some examples in comments below)

Web 2.0 Activates Learning Online

Engage, interact, collaborate, construct, simlulate - all are enabled by a myriad of Web 2.0 applications. There are important messages in the linked article. Perhaps as important as any is the message: "Pedagogy first, then technology." It is the mantra of our approach in COLRS - we begin with good pedagogical approaches, then we choose technologies to enable those approaches. We never recommend the use of technology for technology's sake. Technology is the servant of active learning.

Here is a link to another of Michael Wesch's videos - - this one gives a good sense of how AJAX (asynchronous javascript and XML) and other Web 2.0 applications are changing the way we teach, learn, and live.

Assessing Active Learning

Assessing Active Learning in Online Comparative Politics Classes

Assessing Learning in Web-enhanced/Online Courses

Get Fast!

Some strategies for actively engaging students online

Using Online Resources to Promote Active Learning in Physics Teaching

Active Learning and Quality in Online Courses

Active Learning Online By the Numbers: A Compilation of Lists from Several Scholars of Active Learning with Technology

More Resources / Contact Information

Ray Schroeder, Director
Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza
Springfield, IL 62703