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Monday, June 25, 2018

Let Students Lead the Class with Active Learning | Faculty Focus

Photo: Sarah McLean
Sarah McLean, assistant professor in the departments of anatomy & cell biology, and physiology & pharmacology at Western University, Ontario, Canada argues, "Occasionally, I will have a teaching idea that both furthers students’ learning AND saves me time. Here is one such idea: let students take the reins and lead the class."

Photo: Faculty Focus

To put this into context, I have been teaching a blended and flipped fourth-year undergraduate course for a few years now. Students complete online learning modules (OLMs) before class, then we spend class time working through case studies, discussing, and synthesizing information.

In previous years, I would begin each class by summarizing the important content from the OLM (in approximately 5 minutes), as well as take time to answer students’ questions they had posted in advance of meeting. To be quite honest, I found the process rather tedious and not the most engaging way to begin class. I could tell students were not always paying attention during these summaries, but I struggled with how to ensure that everyone got the information they needed to move forward. During the rest of the class I felt that my teaching was more dynamic and allowed for a great amount of peer interaction. How could I pull this into the beginning of the class?

The idea came about rather serendipitously—I ended up changing around some of the assessments in the course and dropped a mini oral presentation requirement. Yet students still had a summative group oral presentation at the end of the term (worth 10% of their mark), and I wanted to give them an opportunity to practice their presentation skills and receive feedback before this end-of-term assessment. Inspiration struck, and I thought, “Why not let the students lead the summaries?”...

Overall, letting my students take ownership of their learning by leading their classmates has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The OLM summaries have also helped to promote a cooperative and collegial classroom environment, and I don’t have to spend time preparing (what I felt) were monotonous summaries.  

Source: Faculty Focus