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Creating An Active Learning Environment

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engaging Students in Learning

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.380.1 - 14.380.11



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Paper Authors


John Marshall University of Southern Maine

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John Marshall received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and is the Internship Coordinator for the Department of Technology at the University of Southern Maine. His areas of specialization include Power and Energy Processing, Applied Process Control Engineering, Automation, Fluid Power, and Facility Planning.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Creating an Active Learning Environment The participants populating our schools are becoming more diverse. They are coming from different cultures and have different learning styles. They also have different interests and different levels of maturity. As technical teachers, we frequently teach a blend of theoretical and applied engineering topics. Our goal is to provide our students with the skills and knowledge they need to safely and accurately accomplish their jobs to high standards of quality in a cost effective manner.

Central to providing effective instruction is knowing something about how people learn. The more we know about the learning process the more effective we can be in designing and delivering appropriate instruction. A one-size-fits-all teaching method lacks the flexibility needed to challenge and encourage learning in today’s effective teaching programs. “Differentiated instruction, often referred to as universal design, is a teaching and learning style that is the result of neuroscience research on how the human brain processes and retains new information”. 1


“Acknowledging that students learn at different speeds and that they differ in their ability to think abstractly or understand complex ideas is like acknowledging that students at any given age aren’t all the same height: It is not a statement of worth, but of reality”.2 In a differentiated classroom and laboratory, the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process, and product in anticipation and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs. According to Tomlinson, our teaching style “can influence a students’ IQ by 20 points in either direction, that’s a 40 point IQ swing”.2 Key concepts of differentiated instruction include:

More qualitative than quantitative. Merely assigning more or less work based on a learner’s ability is typically ineffective.

Rooted in assessment. Evaluation is no longer predominately something that happens at the end of a chapter to determine “who got it”. Assessment routinely takes place to determine the particular needs of individuals.

Student centered. Learning is most effective when experiences are engaging, relevant, and interesting.

A blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction.

Research is proving it’s a “use it” or “loose it” brain. Activities designed to engage the brain can help grow dendrites, which is the wiring that connects brain cells. The more ways we find to process information the stronger learning (i.e., neural connections between brain cells) becomes. Research is proving that to enhance learning, we should be involving students in lessons by providing a non-threatening environment which allows them time to ask questions, seek solutions, reflect, share thinking about a theme or topic, and respond to other's viewpoints.

Marshall, J. (2009, June), Creating An Active Learning Environment Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4713

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