Student Centered Approaches to Large Lectures

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Student-Centered Approaches for Use in the Large Lecture Class Activity Ideas

Ideas for implementing active-learning by incorporating these activities into the lecture include the following:

  • Modifying the lecture – (Huerta, 2007)
    • Reading quizzes
    • Question-based outlines
    • Discussion question prompts
  • Small group discussions in large lectures – (Beichner et al., 2007)
    • “Tangibles” – short, hands-on activities
    • “Ponderables” – interesting questions to consider
    • Longer, more open-ended problem-solving activities
  • Actively preparing for exams –
    • Group work, creating “study guides” (Huerta, 2007)



Useful websites addressing the above ideas to promote active-learning in the lecture setting:








Additional Student-Centered Active-Learning Initiatives/Opportunities that would require considerable AUC’s commitment of time and financial resources to properly implement.

  1. Pod casts to supplement lectures –
    1. O,Bannon et al. 2007
    2. McGarr, 2011
  2. PRS/ Student Clickers incorporated into lecture ( refer to Reference List)
  3. POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) for post-secondary large class POGIL
    1. Personal Response Systems: Clickers in the Classroom
    2. Interactive Learning – Interwrite PRS from eInstruction – Banxia Software
  4. SCALE-UP Model (refer to Beichner et al in Reference List) The Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs (SCALE-UP) Project

Robert J. Beichner1*, Jeffery M. Saul,2 David S. Abbott, 3Jeanne J. Morse,4 Duane L. Deardorff, 5Rhett J. Allain, 6Scott W. Bonham,7 Melissa H. Dancy, 8John S. Risley1

Abstract: The primary goal of the SCALE-UP Project is to establish a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment for large, introductory college courses. North Carolina State University and a group of more than two-dozen collaborating schools are folding together lecture and lab with multiple instructors in a way that provides an effective, economical alternative to traditional lecture-oriented instruction. The project involves the development of the pedagogy, classroom envi-ronment, and teaching materials that will support this type of learning. It includes the development, evaluation, and dissemination of new curricular materials in physics, chemistry, and biology. Here we will focus on the calculus-based introductory phys-ics part of the effort. In comparisons to traditional instruction we have seen signifi-cantly increased conceptual understanding, improved attitudes, successful problem solving, and higher success rates, particularly for females and minorities. This chap-ter highlights the development of the SCALE-UP pedagogy, classroom environment, and teaching materials for calculus-based introductory physics at North Carolina State University.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: beichner@ncsu.edu Beichner et al. SCALE-UP

References

Al-Modhefer, AK, Roe, S. (2009). Nursing students’ attitudes to biomedical science lectures. Nursing Standard, 24, 14, 42-48.

  • Investigates student preferences for passive vs. active learning;
  • Nursing students preferred to learn biomedical sciences passively, were intimidated by interactive lectures;
  • Researchers, educators recognized need to enhance learning process in large lecture settings by utilizing established guidelines with objectives and requirements to increase student participation, promote interest, increase the potential long-term retention of course material;
  • Nursing students need to be able to practically apply the concepts learned in lecture to practice and real-life situations as part of their work; active learning opportunities would be beneficial;
  • Students cited the following as the top five desired characteristics of an effective lecturer: 1) speaks clearly and effectively, 2) emphasizes important topics for examination study, 3) is able to stimulate a student’s interest, 4) illustrates theory with appropriate examples, and 5) presents lecture in a well-structured and organized manner.
  • Interestingly, students indicated that the least desirable or necessary trait of a lecturer was enabling student interaction.

Bailey, P., Minderhout, V., Loertscher, J. (2011). Learning transferable skills in large lecture halls: Implementing a POGIL approach in biochemistry. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 40 (1), 1-7. DOI: 10.1002/bmb.20556.

  • Case study showing how Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) can be implemented in the large lecture class setting;
  • This is a student-centered focus;
  • Response from students was overwhelming and learning was improved.

Beichner, R. J., Saul, J. M., Abbott, D. S., Morse, J., Deardorff, D., Allain, R. J., ... & Risley, J. (2007). The student centered activities for large enrollment undergraduate programs (SCALE-UP) project. Research-based reform of university physics, 1(1), 2-39.

Please refer to the abstract below.

Abstract: The primary goal of the SCALE-UP Project is to establish a highly collaborative, hands-on, computer-rich, interactive learning environment for large, introductory college courses. North Carolina State University and a group of more than two dozen collaborating schools are folding together lecture and lab with multiple instructors in a way that provides an effective, economical alternative to traditional lecture-oriented instruction. The project involves the development of the pedagogy, classroom environment, and teaching materials that will support this type of learning. It includes the development, evaluation, and dissemination of new curricular materials in physics, chemistry, and biology. Here we will focus on the calculus-based introductory physics part of the effort. In comparisons to traditional instruction we have seen significantly increased conceptual understanding, improved attitudes, successful problem solving, and higher success rates, particularly for females and minorities. This chapter highlights the development of the SCALE-UP pedagogy, classroom environment, and teaching materials for calculus-based introductory physics at North Carolina State University.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: beichner@ncsu.edu Beichner et al. SCALE-UP

Berry, W. (2010). Surviving lecture: A pedagogical alternative. College Teaching.56 (3), 149-153.

  • “Theory Survivor” cooperative learning method that combines efficiency of lecture and effectiveness of active learning in music theory courses;
  • Used group cohesion, extrinsic rewards, and positive peer pressure to motivate students;
  • Strives for rich educational environment where students experience positive growth in learning;
  • Idea of teamwork, collaborative learning, and peer instruction led to 1) better long-term retention of the course material, and 2) improved social collaborative skills.

Gauci, S., Dantas, A., Williams, D., Kemm, R. (2009). Promoting student-centered active learning in lectures with a personal response system. Advances in Physiology Education, 33, 60-71. DOI: 10.1152/advan.00109.2007

  • Using the PRS (student clickers during the lecture) encouraged students’ active learning in lectures;
  • These active lectures were shown to increase student motivation and learning outcomes;
  • Provided increased student engagement and immediate student feedback on material being taught;
  • Instructors inserted PRS questions periodically throughout the duration of their lectures. This could include opinion, prediction, answers to topic-specific content, voting on an issue, etc.
  • Extra teacher preparation time, including training to use the system was required;
  • The study did reveal that students agreed that they were more engaged and interested in the lectures when they used the PRS, and stated they felt they learned more. Students in the PRS group scored higher on their mid-semester and final exams than did the students in the control group (straight lecture format);
  • As with other studies addressing use of active-learning methods in large lectures, the researchers found that if students were held accountable for pre-reading the basic information and materials about a topic prior to coming to class (use of reading at the start of class), then time in the active-lecture class could successfully focus on student-centered learning in the areas of more involved concepts and critical thinking of course content.

Huerta, J.C. (2007). Getting active in the large lecture. Journal of Political Science Education, 3, 237-249. DOI: 10.1080/15512160701558224.

  • Active learning techniques in large lecture classes shown to be at least as effective as ‘lecture-only’ format. In summary, “active learning does not lead to less learning and students are more likely to have positive attitudes” about their large lecture courses;
  • Students reported greater satisfaction with the active-learning course and more would recommend it to others;
  • Suggestions for implementing active-learning by incorporating these activities into the lecture include:
    • Modifying the lecture –
      • Reading quizzes
      • Question-based outlines
      • Discussion question prompts
      • Small group discussions in large lectures –
      • Actively preparing for exams –
      • Group work, creating “study guides”

Please see Student-Centered Activities for Large Lecture Settings – Ideas

McGarr, O. (2009). A review of podcasting in higher education: Its influence on the traditional lecture. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3), 309-321. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/mcgarr.html

  • This review covers 3 types of podcasting: 1) as a substitution for a lecture or for review and revision, 2) as a supplementation, providing additional information, to a lecture, and 3) for creative use through student-generated podcasts in an active-learning environment;
  • The reported benefits are to enhance convenience, flexibility, and accessibility to a course by providing supplemental materials and activities to students outside of the lecture environment;
  • The review of the literature showed that using podcasts as a substitution for lectures only reinforced students’ passive learning (like in the traditional lecture setting);
  • If used as supplementation, not just as summaries of lectures, but rather by providing additional material that can enhance students’ deeper knowledge and understanding on specific topics, it is beneficial;
  • When students are given the task of creating their own podcasts on a given topic, working as a group, it can facilitate their collaborative learning and promotes their independent research and learning on a topic;
  • In the end, the value of podcasting as an adjunct learning tool used in the lecture setting will depend on the perceptions and commitments of the teachers and students.

O’Bannon, B., Lubke,J., Beard, J., Britt, V. (2011). Using podcasts to replace lecture: Effects on student achievement. Computers and Education, 57, 1885-1892.

  • In this study, podcasts took the place of lectures in a large core technology lecture course;
  • Demonstrated no difference in those students who experienced podcast instruction versus those who attended large lectures;
  • Students liked the podcasts, and thought they were easy to use, but did not want podcasts to replace lectures. Maybe as supplementary tool?

Riffell, S., Merrill, J. (2005). Do hybrid lecture formats influence laboratory performance in large, pre-professional biology courses? Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, 34, 96-100.

  • Study on hybrid learning. Control group all lecture, experimental group combo lecture and online instruction;
  • Overall, the hybrid vs. all lecture did not impact students’ lab performances.

Walker, J., Cotner, S., Baepler, P., Decker, M. (2008). A delicate balance: Integrating active learning into a large lecture course. Life Sciences Education, 7, 361-367.

  • Control group was all lecture, and experimental group was “active” with a variety of student-centered activities;
  • Students performed at least as well in the “active” lectures, but expressed concerns about instructor’s expectations;
  • Results indicated that a mix between lecturing and student-centered activities is most likely the most beneficial;
  • Notes that previous research has shown that content-intensive courses can be less effective than targeted, minimized-content courses at promoting overall student understanding. So, it would be important to prioritize topics covered, thus minimizing content in class which actually may promote improved student understanding of material;
  • Traditional lectures include lecture, quizzes, exams. Exams come from lecture, text, outlines;
  • Active learning lectures include group work, mini lecture, homework, in-class activities, text, and outlines; Exams are based on readings and the active-learning activities.
  • Active learning model may benefit the weaker or poorly-performing students more;
  • In this study, there was a smaller standard deviation (SD) among students’ grades/outcomes in the active group than those in the traditional group;
  • By the end of the semester, students in the traditional group had significantly higher confidence levels than the students in the active sections;
  • Science interest level among students in both groups dropped from the beginning of the semester to the end. The more they learned, the less interested they were?
  • Active learning in large lecture courses require students to be responsible and accountable for more out-of-class learning;
  • Based on student responses and evaluations, improving instructor experience and comfort in using an active learning in lecture format and explaining the value of this type of learning to students may lead to improved overall student outcomes and satisfaction levels.

Yazedjian, A., Kolkhorst, B. (2007). Implementing small group activities in large lecture classes. College Teaching,55(4), 164-169.

  • Examines students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of small-group work in large lecture classes;
  • According to the author “ The lack of rapport that students feel with the instructor and with other students can prevent students’ motivation to engage in the learning process”;
  • “Students who believe they are anonymous often feel less personally responsible for learning, are less motivated to learn, and are less likely to attend class”;
  • Considers students’ perspectives about how this alternative format could enhance learner comprehension, reduce anonymity, and promote student accountability;
  • Research has shown that active-learning exercises like discussions, practice, and application of ideas, concepts, and hard facts learned, can increase both short and long-term retention of course content presented;
  • Provided strategies to incorporate student-centered activities into the large lecture format;
  • This article focused on a small-group discussion activity implemented in the large lecture class.




Additional resources for interactive learning and student-centered approaches to large lecture formats using Personal Response Systems (PRS)/ Student Clickers (Please refer to the POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) for post-secondary large class POGIL http://www.pogil.org/post-secondary/large-class-pogil

Personal Response Systems: Clickers in the Classroom http://www.oid.ucla.edu/units/tlc/tectutorials/prstutorials

Interactive Learning – Interwrite PRS from eInstruction – Banxia Software http://www.banxia.com/prs

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