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Find insights to improve teaching and learning across your campus. Delivered on Thursdays.

From: Beckie Supiano

Subject: Teaching: Moving Forward With Active Learning

This week:

  • I pass along some insights from two teaching experts who spoke during our recent event on the future of active learning.
  • I share resources recommended by our panelists.
  • I ask for your feedback on the newsletter.
  • I link to some recent articles you may have missed.

Moving Forward

Count Lindsay Masland among those who bristle at the idea of “going back to normal” after the pandemic abates. The goal, said Masland, assistant director of faculty professional development at Appalachian State University, is not going back but “moving forward.”

In the chaotic early days of remote instruction last spring, Masland, who’s also an associate professor of psychology, encouraged faculty members to think about what was most important in their in-person courses and about how that might be adjusted to work online. As they prepare for this fall, she said during a recent Chronicle panel, many faculty members will be going through that process in reverse.

They might reflect on “what did I love about virtual teaching,” she said, and how to “make that work in my classroom.”

Masland shared those observations during the “Active Learning for a Post-Pandemic World” virtual event that Beth and I co-hosted in mid-May. (Beth described insights from another speaker, Eric Mazur, a physics professor at Harvard University, in last week‘s newsletter; you can watch a recording and view a transcript of the panel here.)

Here are a few more ideas to consider from Masland and another panelist, Chandralekha Singh, a professor of physics and director of the Discipline-Based Science Education Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh:

  • Break a course down into small, low-stakes assessments to help students keep up with the material, Singh suggested. But this works only if those assessments come with points attached.
  • In order for an active-learning classroom to work for all students, instructors must use inclusive teaching strategies, Singh said. Research shows that using short interventions to encourage all students to feel as if they belong can help. For example, instructors can talk about some adversity they overcame to underscore that having difficulty in class is normal — and surmountable.
  • Professors have many bells and whistles to consider adding to their courses. To choose, Masland suggested focusing on the course’s main goal. She likes the phrase “purpose is your bouncer,” from a book on hosting meetings and throwing parties, as a reminder to use only what fits that goal.
  • The chat function in platforms like Zoom has lowered barriers to class participation. In the classroom, Singh said, professors could “stop every 15 to 20 minutes” to let students discuss with a neighbor or two “what are the most challenging things so far,” allowing professors to see where clarification is needed.

Resources for Active Learning

Our panelists also shared a number of resources. They include:

  • “Remote Teaching Was a Disaster. Was It?” — a video by Mazur
  • “Project and Team-Based Introductory Physics” — Mazur’s public introduction to his Harvard course
  • “Changing Social Contexts to Foster Equity in College Science Courses: An Ecological-Belonging Intervention” — a research paper co-authored by Singh
  • “Camera Use in Zoom: Making the Right Choice for Your Class” — a flow chart by Masland

How Are We Doing?

What do you like about the Teaching newsletter? What could we do better? We appreciate your feedback! Please share it here.

ICYMI

  • EdSurge explores the future of pass/fail grading in this recent article.
  • Derek Bruff, who was recently promoted to assistant provost after directing the teaching center at Vanderbilt University, takes questions from his friend Joshua Kim, who has written about directors of such centers moving into leadership, for Inside Higher Ed.
  • The tenure denial of Nikole Hannah-Jones has shined a light on how few Black women hold this distinction. Our colleagues Audrey Williams June and Brian O’Leary built a database that allows you to search by college to see their representation.

Thanks for reading Teaching. If you have suggestions or ideas, please feel free to email us, at beckie.supiano@chronicle.com or beth.mcmurtrie@chronicle.com.

—Beckie

Learn more about our Teaching newsletter, including how to contact us, at the Teaching newsletter archive page.

Beckie Supiano writes about teaching, learning, and the human interactions that shape them. Follow her on Twitter @becksup, or drop her a line at beckie.supiano@chronicle.com.