Post by guest author Meredith Hinze from the University of Melbourne.
Today, we reframe our focus onto the activity based learning models and approaches that suit active learning environments. We will also consider how to design for active learning and “activate” learning when you’ve been timetabled in a standard classroom.
Designing involves planning the sequence of types of activities and interactions for student learning experiences. Consider the different modes of student engagement:
- learner – teacher interaction
- learner – learner interaction
- learner – content interaction
The key to successful interactive activities is a lot of pre-planning, so that you can smoothly achieve the outcomes that you are hoping for. Consider the following when you start thinking about designing for active learning spaces:
- What learning outcomes do you want students to have from sessions in active learning spaces?
- How do you want students to learn? (collaboratively in pairs, small or large groups; individually; or using a T&L approach such as role play).
- What sort of activities can you ask students to do in active learning spaces?
What are the types of learning or activities that ALS (active learning spaces) can facilitate?
Activities need to be educationally purposeful. The guiding principle is that class design shouldn’t be driven by the activity, but that the learning objectives and overall alignment to assessment should drive the choice of activity. (We discuss this in detail in a previous course.) Activities can be divided into low stake and high stake strategies. There are variants of the approaches and they are adaptable to different group sizes.
Low stakes (simple) active learning strategies can be used to engage students in face to face classes or online (using breakout rooms in Zoom, for example), such as:
- Pyramid technique
- Jigsaw technique
- Buzz group
- Mindmaps / concept mapping
- Minute papers
- Classroom response technologies
More complex high stakes activities, are larger in scope, requiring more structured planning and design include:
- World café
- Roll playing
- Case studies
- peer learning
- project based learning
- collaborative learning
- experiential learning
The chart below gives a sense of where many of these activities fit in terms of complexity.
For details on these active learning models and which apply best for lectures and for seminars/tutorials, see:
- List of active learning strategy ideas (California State University, LA)
- Activity guide for active learning spaces at UNSW
- Group and collaborative learning coffee course
- Post: Discussion and activity strategies for lectures
- Post: Technologies for active learning
- Flipping the classroom coffee course
Learning Designs for Active Learning Spaces
Whether you’re designing just one class or part of a class, find an approach that aligns most closely with your learning objectives. Careful consideration of the relationship between the affordances of the virtual LMS/online space and the physical classroom space can open up new opportunities for innovative teaching and active learning. When planning teaching and learning activities, it helps to plan out what both the teacher and students and doing.
The template below can be adapted to help plan your activity design.
|Intended Learning Outcome||Teaching and Learning Activity||What the teacher does||What the student does||Resources /technology involved|
Practical strategies and challenges when switching to active learning
Adapting an existing subject that has been taught in traditional lecture/tutorial mode to suit active learning spaces may involve timetable changes and significant remodelling of curriculum.
Think about a lesson or bit of content that you might have traditionally offered didactically. How might you adapt this if you were in an active learning space? What types of activities might students do? What technology and timing would be involved? Post your activity designs to the Padlet wall and use the comments to give peer feedback.
Padlet Activity: https://unimelb.padlet.org/eLearning/learning_spaces_Day4
An example from the University of Melbourne
Watch this video case study from Dr David McInnis, Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies, English and Theatre, Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, and reflect on some of the practical considerations in remodelling curriculum and adapting teaching to active learning spaces. Dr McInnis has produced a series of videos of original interpretations of scenes from Shakespeare plays and uses these videos for activities designed across the pre-class, in-class and post-class continuum.
Image: Arts West, The University of Melbourne, large project room. Dr David McInnis, Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies, English and Theatre, Faculty of Arts. In this class students are experiencing a 360’ video of the last scene of The Taming of the Shrew, collaborating on Padlet walls in small groups, and contributing to whole room discussion.
What are some of the challenges or issues you might face when redesigning your course to suit an active learning space? What practicalities or concerns do you have about this approach? Share your ideas in the comments.
Consider of the following issues and how they might impact your plans:
- Class size
- Time available in the session
- Facilitation and dealing with groups
- Using technology
A closing thought
Before we finish for today, have a think about the limitations of your own classrooms. What do you think about the capacity for re-imagining “active learning spaces” to stretch beyond the classroom? A case study of interest is the student mini festival as part of the Encounters with Writing capstone subject, coordinated by Dr Maria Tumarkin, Senior Lecturer, Creative Writing, at The University of Melbourne. The festival showcases the collaborative work of students, integrating their critical work into the festival, through creative installations, live performances, interactive elements and experiences. The students completely transform and reconceptualize the learning spaces in Arts West, taking over the building for the evening. Learning spaces are unrecognisable from their classroom identity and rooms are used and activated as a sequence of rooms. Think about how you perceive learning spaces and their limitations as we look at online and blended spaces in our fifth and final post for the course.
- Chronicle of Higher Education – “Is it ever okay to lecture?“