Active Learning and Course Reform

"Students who learn are students who stay." (Tinto, 1999 NACADA). Research shows that engaging curricula promote learning, success and retention. Reforming courses to include active learning strategies can be an overwhelming task if done alone or without knowledge. This site provides engineering faculty with an introduction to active learning strategies and with a network of other faculty who have incorporated active learning into their courses. 

SOE Faculty/Staff Members practicing Active Learning (excel file). If you are interested in being included in the network of faculty who have incorporated active learning into their courses, please complete the simple webform which is below the active learning definitions.

Questions or suggestions about this site, contact Dr. Lydia Prendergast.

Active Learning Strategies

Collaborative learning is a key aspect of active learning groups of students engage in a range of activities to negotiate their understanding of content, discuss or debate from divergent perspectives and/ or create an artefact or product.
collaborative learning - Johnson

Case based learning engages students in discussion of specific scenarios that resemble or typically are real-world examples. This method is learner-centered with intense interaction between participants as they build their knowledge and work together as a group to examine the case.
yadav - case based engg.pdf

Conceptual Change means changing how a person thinks about a particular concept and how a concept relates to other concepts. Precipitating conceptual change is a complex task requiring research, planning, and careful implementation including knowing where students' thinking currently is, how to grab their attention, how to confront their prior knowledge, and how to build new ways of thinking. 
mental models and conceptual change - Redish

Flipped classroom is an instructional strategy and a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom.
Bajwa - Flipped Classroom.pdf

Inquiry based learning describes approaches to learning that are based on a process of enquiry, study and research in which students:
-take on more responsibility for identifying precisely what they need to learn and finding resources which will allow them to the gaps in their knowledge
-can begin in first year and progressively develop their research skills as self-directed learners
-learn to identify and find answers to the questions that they need to ask and the resources that they need to draw upon in solving any given complex (often real world problems).

An integrated curriculum is described as one that connects different areas of study by cutting across subject-matter lines and emphasizing unifying concepts.
froyd,ohland - integrated engineering curricula.pdf
carlson - integrated engg curriculum.pdf

Problem-based learning (also known as PBL) uses authentic, loosely structured problems for students to solve. Students receive guidance, but not answers, from facilitators and assessment is based on student performance.
The term 'PBL' is used for different active learning pedagogies—problem-based learning and project based learning. Both strategies can be included as enquiry-based learning but differ in their application: problem based learning focuses on the problem and the process while project based learning focuses on the product.
ditcher-problem based engg.pdf 
collaborative pbl - using-engineering-courses-to-improve-pre-calculus-students-success.pdf

Project based learning (also known as PBL) involves deep learning, as it focusses on real world problems and challenges and relies on problem solving, decision making and investigative skills.
Among the activities that contribute to the success of project based learning are:
-effective goal setting
-teaching student project management skills
-effective project consultation and monitoring
-effective feedback. 
Prendergast - Project Based.pdf
math application in engg - Engineering-Introduction-in-Pre-Calculus-paper.pdf

Questioning and Discourse Techniques are strategies used help elicit a deeper understanding of material by creating and asking questions in a certain format and to guide students towards critical conceptual thinking. A couple of techiniques are discursive moves and reciprocal questioning. Example: What, why, how, do you agree, so you are saying that, etc. The one creating the question and the one answering the question are forced to think deeper into the concepts and their understanding of the concepts. Note that the reciprocal questioning strategy, contrary to what it's name may suggest, is completely different than simply asking the same question back to the one who initially asked. 
reciprocal questioning-King
discursive moves and guided inquiry-Stanford

Think-Pair-Share (TPS) is a collaborative learning strategy in which students work together to solve a problem or answer a question about an assigned reading. This technique requires students to (1) think individually about a topic or answer to a question; and (2) share ideas with classmates.
kabalan-think pair share engg.pdf

SOE and University Resources: Currently, much of the course reform in SoE happens independently or with small faculty-to-faculty interactions. The Office of STEM Education (an office of SAS) is interested in collaborating an helping interested STEM faculty in reforming their courses.  Additionally, there are some great interactive classroom spaces that faculty can utilize via Digital Classroom Services. Faculty may also want to utilize the Learning Assistant Program in collaboration with the Learning Centers. 

STeM: Engineering is the application of math and sciences. As we begin to shift the culture to be more interdisciplinary active, it would be great to collect examples of math and science that we see within engineering coursework. If you have examples like this, please consider submitting them: Math and Science in Engineering Examples

Interested in including your course reform efforts in SoE's database? Enter your information below. 

Enter the course number. Ex. 180:243
Enter the number of semesters the active learning strategies have been in practice.
Describe the implemented active learning strategies
If you have any publications about active learning in your courses, please upload the paper here.
Files must be less than 2 MB.
Allowed file types: pdf.
Are you interested in writing a paper about your course reform efforts?
Indicate if you are ok with including your information about active learning on this webpage.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.