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A Framework to Guide Design of Interactive and Constructive Learning Opportunities

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

ChemE Curriculum: Freshman and Sophomore

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Tracy Q. Gardner Colorado School of Mines

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Tracy Q. Gardner graduated from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) with B.S. degrees in chemical engineering and petroleum refining (CEPR) and in mathematical and computer sciences (MCS) in 1996 and with an M.S. degree in CEPR in 1998. She then got her Ph.D. in chemical engineering, studying transport in zeolite membranes, from CU, Boulder, in 2002. She did a postdoc at TUDelft in the Netherlands in 2002 and 2003, studying oxygen conducting mixed oxide membranes and teaching reactor engineering, and she has been teaching back at CSM since 2004. She is now a Teaching Associate Professor in (and was also for 5 years the Assistant Department Head of) the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at CSM. Her primary research focus is in pedagogy, specifically in utilizing hand-held devices and other technology and different teaching methods to increase student engagement and reduce/eliminate lecturing in the classroom. She likes to play with her kids, play racquetball, run, bike, swim, and play pool in her free time.

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A Framework to Guide Design of Interactive and Constructive Learning Opportunities

Active learning beats passive learning when it comes to students understanding concepts and retaining information and skills – that is clear (Freeman et al., 2014; Prince, 2004). Although more and more educators recognize the value of using active learning, how to effectively implement it is less straightforward. What defines “effectively” in this context? What is the most appropriate way to assess the effects of these teaching strategies on learning? And what methods work best in which situations and for what kind of students?

After 14+ years of university-level teaching; experimenting with a wide variety of methods, technologies and tools; and as many years participating in conversations, workshops, and seminars on the topic, this professor has amassed a set of tricks, tools, and ideas for addressing these questions of implementation and creating effective interactive learning environments. Courses should be designed around very well thought out learning outcomes (LO’s), every activity must directly tie to one or more of those LO’s, formative and summative assessments of students’ attainment of or progress toward those LO’s must be regularly conducted, and adjustments to the course delivery must be constantly considered/made based on those assessments (Felder & Brent, 2016; Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). The basic premise of the approach outlined here is that content delivery, in-class activities and out-of-class assignments are designed such that in-class time is reserved for things best done with interaction (student-student and/or student-learning facilitator) and out-of-class time is for things best done at the student’s own pace and/or on their own. A framework for deciding which things actually need to be done, which fall into each of these time- and space-oriented categories, and finally how best to enact them in an efficient and effective manner along with some specific examples of activities (guided readings, screencasts, various forms of class prep assignments, etc.) will be presented. For example, skeleton notes provide a framework for solid notes that take less time than typical “full-bodied” notes, require activity on the student’s part to fill in, and allow for more in-class time to be spent on problem solving, discussion, etc. Following the approach to be presented here, however, one would recognize that moving most to all of even the skeleton note part of a course to screencasts and making them an out of class activity (since filling them in does not require interaction) buys even more in-class time for more interactive and constructive activities.

General guidelines for developing in-class and out-of-class activities and materials, as well as specific examples from Chemical Engineering courses, will be presented along with some qualitative and quantitative assessments of the effects of these teaching approaches on student learning.

Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2016). Teaching and learning STEM: A practical guide. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of engineering education, 93(3), 223-231.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Gardner, T. Q. (2018, June), A Framework to Guide Design of Interactive and Constructive Learning Opportunities Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29683

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