Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Active Learning Classrooms

Active Learning Classrooms are teaching and learning spaces that allow faculty to move their course design beyond lecture.  Faculty are supported through the room design, flexible furniture, multiple writing surfaces, and interactive technologies.  In these rooms, students move from a static learning environments (rows of chairs) to a more dynamic one (group seating often utilizing chairs and tables on wheels).

Here at North Shore Community College, we have designed two spaces as Active Learning Classrooms.  LE 304 in Lynn and DB 101 in Danvers have portable chairs on wheels and white boards have been installed around the wall surfaces of the classrooms.  Faculty have begun to requests these spaces as they allow for students to work together more efficiently and effectively.  The teacher's role then becomes more of a guide to learning.

Some effective teaching models in these kinds of  classrooms include:

1.  Think--Pair--Share
This is a discussion strategy where the teacher gets the students thinking about a posed question.  The students then "pair up" to talk about their thoughts or answers to the question.  The teacher then calls on the pairs to share their thoughts with the rest of the class.

2.  Focused Listening
Here students recall what they know about a subject.  This can be done in pairs or groups  They list what they know on a sheet of paper.   The instructor roams the room requesting the lists to be read out loud by the pairs or groups.

3.  Brainstorming
This is similar to focused listening.  Here, though, students might stretch what they know by forming creative connections between previous knowledge and new possibilities.  In Brainstorming, there are no wrong answers.

4.  Note Check
With Note Check, students partner with someone.  They compare notes.  They notice each other's misconceptions or lack of clarity, and then assist in pointing that out and cleaning it up.

5.  The Two Minute Paper
Here the faculty member asks students to summarize the most important points in the day's lecture.  It helps students to put things in their own words.  It also helps students to identify their gaps in their understanding.

6.  The Final Question
At the end of class, the faculty member asks the students if they had one last question about the material, what would it be?  It encourages students to think deeply about material before leaving the room.

If you would like to know more about Active Learning Classrooms, please contact us at itd@northshore.edu.

Dave Houle
Coordinator, Instructional Technology