Active learning in classrooms encourages students to work collaboratively and motivate each others’ learning, to clarify their understanding of course content and reflect on different peer perspectives. Take a look at the group work suggestions in our series of blog posts. We recommend booking City’s new Learning Spaces to run these activities.
These three techniques can be used together or on their own in most classrooms. They complement each other in small group teaching, hence they have been grouped together. They work best for classes of approximately 20-50 students but can be used for smaller or larger classes.
Why? Allows all students to make a quick contribution to the class and hence promotes engagement in class and allows for the capture of many ideas quickly. Can be used in a variety of contexts from idea generation, problem solving to evaluation.
Technique: Students write on post-its for posting on a board or squiggle glass for subsequent discussion of a topic. Ensures all members contribute.The technique helps generate ideas or information anonymously.
Polleverywhere tip from a City Academic:
“…I use Poll Everywhere to get free text responses during the break… I ask a question about, ‘What makes a good leader?’ you know, it’s a lecture on leadership. And I ask people, ‘Right, text in your responses now.’ … So, I go around the room informally, not sort of shouting at them. But just go and stand next to the people on the aisle and say, ‘So, what are you thinking? Have you texted in? Shall I send it in and I’ve got my phone there.’ And I’ll send in a sort of response, if they haven’t done it yet. And I’ll say, ‘So, why do you…’ you know. I’ll draw, try and get them to draw out while they think things. It means, I can’t speak to everyone because there’s a hundred people. We’re just using five minutes for it. But then it means I can come back and summarise as the things appear on the screen. I can summarise the conversation I’ve been having and say, ‘You know, some of you guys over there and you guys at the back there were talking about these sorts of ideas.’ I think that fits very well with this. And then, I can go through the messages that have appeared on the screen…try to pull out the things that fit with the theories of leadership. …we then go on to discuss and it feels like the students have almost sort of developed the idea themselves”
Why? This technique allows for the communication of complex ideas in a form that allows students to construct their own understanding of a topic. A useful way to end a session.
Technique: Split the class into a group of no more than six. Ask students to produce a poster and attach it to a whiteboard, squiggle glass or wall. The other students then tour the posters as a plenary exercise. This is a great way for students to learn about a topic from each other using a medium they might not otherwise use.
Online suggestion: Assign students to groups to produce a poster and upload it to a discussion forum in Moodle.
Tip: Why not get students to mark each others’ posters using a set criteria, getting them to evaluate the posters and encouraging a deeper understanding of the topic.
3) Problems-based Learning
Why? This approach is a great way of introducing real world scenarios in your teaching which develop students communication and thinking skills. It also gauges students understanding and helps them to share their interpretations with others.
Technique: Split the class into groups of no more than six. Give a specific open-ended task to each group, ensure each member of the group has a chance to participate. The findings can be reported by one person from the group to the whole class at the end. The groups can use a whiteboard or squiggle glass.
Online suggestion: You can replicate this activity online via a discussion forum
Tip: You could also ask the group to create a poster (paper and pens will be needed) that can be used to explain the solution or rationale to the problem at the end of the class or before a break, instead of asking one person to report back to the whole class.
Where can these activity be done?
Details of recommended learning spaces for these activities are found below:
|Movable tables and chairs||College||A109||35||–|
|Tait||C340||25 – 50||25 exam room style, 50 lecture style|
|Social Sciences||D104||30 – 60||30 exam room style, 60 lecture style|
|Drysdale||E212||30 – 60||30 exam room style, 60 lecture style|
|Computer room||College||AG24A||30||With round tables and movable seating; SHS has 2-week booking priority|
For more ideas on group work activities in flexible learning spaces visit http://tinyurl.com/LSgroupwork.
This blog draws on the following works:
Brown University, n.d Interactive Classroom Activities [online] Available from: http://www.brown.edu/about/administration/sheridan-center/teaching-learning/effective-classroom-practices/interactive-classroom-activities [Accessed 20.08.2014]
Portsmouth, n.d. Active Learning in Groups Available from: http://www.port.ac.uk/departments/services/dcqe/developingyouracademicpractice/downloads/filetodownload,114568,en.pdf [Accessed 20.08.2014]
Berkley, n.d Teaching Discussion Sections Available from: http://gsi.berkeley.edu/teachingguide/sections/groupwork.html [Accessed 20.08.2014]