Facilitating active learning in large courses during remote instruction
As part of the Smart Restart plan, academic instruction for the Fall 2020 semester will consist of a mixture of both in-person and remote courses. Courses larger than 50 students will be taught using remote instruction methods. Instructors teaching larger courses (150 + students) are presented with different challenges and need different solutions to engage students and facilitate learning. The resources presented here guide ways of adjusting these activities to meet the changes in a remote instruction environment for these large courses. The following are a selection of commonly-used active learning approaches that should meet the majority of instructional needs.}
Background Knowledge Probe
The Background Knowledge Probe is designed to collect feedback on students’ prior learning, including knowledge or beliefs that may hinder or block further understanding. Students complete a short survey prepared by the instructor at the beginning of a course, the start of a new unit or lesson, or before introducing a new topic.
Defining Features Matrix
The Defining Features Matrix approach requires students to categorize concepts according to the presence (+) or absence (–) of critical defining features. This activity helps students develop conceptual organizational skills and data on their analytic reading and thinking skills.
Minute Paper/Muddiest Point
The Minute Paper/Muddiest Point approaches have students write quick responses to a question to help instructors gain insight or understanding of content. Questions could include: “What was the most important thing you learned today?“; “What important question remains unanswered?”; or “What was the muddiest point in _______ ?”
Pro and Con Grid
The Pro and Con Grid approach has students follow a decision-making process by reviewing an issue, creating a list of pro and con arguments, and making a decision based on the weight and analysis of those points. A review of students’ lists reveals the depth and breadth of their analyses, capacity for objectivity, and strength of their decision-making skills. In large courses (150 +), it can be difficult to facilitate active learning. This document walks you through the steps in planning and implementing this approach in your large course.
The Student-Defined Questions approach asks students individually to reflect on a reading assignment, lectures, or presentation. Before class, students write a question based on that content and write a model answer for it. In class, student pairs exchange questions and write a response to the partner’s question. They trade, read, and compare answers.