June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.171.1 - 15.171.9
An Optimizing Learning Strategy Employing a Selection of Online &
Onsite Modalities to Achieve the Outcomes for a Calculus Course
Introduction Many institutions of higher education around the world are changing the emphasis in education to more active learning styles in contrast to the older more passive learning styles.1,2,3 An example of passive learning would be a student listening to a lecture with little to no interaction with the professor, curriculum or fellow students. In active learning, the student is tasked with a higher level of ownership in regard to academic success. The professor actively facilitates learning through discussion, feedback and other interactive models and thus serves more as a teaching mentor and guide rather than a traditional lecturer. An example of active learning is a student providing a differential equation for a hydraulic system and then challenged to learn everything they need to know to solve it. Taking the lead from accreditation bodies, progress in a course is measured in terms of desired outcomes—skills and knowledge the student should possess upon completion. Achievement of the outcomes is then measured against performance criteria. One of the preferred methods for stating performance criteria is in the form of a rubric. The rubric is applied by the teacher to the student’s body of work. In active learning, the rubric can be applied by the student and confirmed by the teacher. Method This is a report on an investigation into active learning that took place in a Calculus II class taught by one of the authors. The course was complimented with an online resource shell which provided a number of resources to the student available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through any Internet enabled (TCP/IP compliant) computing platform. The course had an established duration of eight weeks. The professor was available for in-person interaction onsite to the students for eight hours a week not including office hours. The following ground rules were established. First the students were to familiarize themselves with the resources available in the shell. Second the students were to review the outcomes specified for the course. Next the student was to start the course by stating a framing question4 (“The Frame”) which becomes the student’s personal mission statement for the course. The framing question was most important. The question cemented the commitment of the student to the course. Why was the student taking the course? What did they want to get out of the course? Guidelines were developed by the authors. These guidelines were communicated to the student on how to author the framing question. One of the predominant guidelines was that “The Frame” had to encompass all the outcomes for the course and had to empower the student to use all the available resources. The student was required to iteratively submit the framing question to the professor who critiqued it and returned it for revision. The question was to be resubmitted until the question met the guidelines and only then could the student begin to venture into the other aspects of the course. The beginning of active learning in the Calculus II course was defined as the point when the student posed the framing question in a comprehensive nature which is unique and related to the course and to the academic and career goals of the student. This began the active learning process.
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