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Differentiated Instruction and Active Learning Environments

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Lessons for New Engineering Educators

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.500.1 - 22.500.12



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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 Departmental Internship Coordinator 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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Differentiated Instruction and Active Learning EnvironmentsThe participants populating our schools are becoming more diverse. They are coming fromdifferent cultures and have different learning styles. They also have different interests anddifferent levels of maturity. As technical teachers, we frequently teach a blend of theoretical andapplied engineering topics. Our goal is provide our students with the skills and knowledge theyneed to safely and accurately accomplish their jobs to high standards of quality in a cost effectivemanner.“Acknowledging that students learn at different speeds and that they differ in their ability tothink abstractly or understand complex ideas is like acknowledging that students at any given agearen’t all the same height: It is not a statement of worth, but of reality” (Tomlinson).A one-size-fits-all teaching method lacks the flexibility needed to challenge and encouragelearning in today’s effective teaching programs. Differentiated instruction, often referred to asuniversal design, is a teaching and learning style that is the result of neuroscience research onhow the human brain processes and retains new information (Rose and Meyer).Key concepts of differentiated instruction that will be addressed in this presentationinclude: Proactively use a variety of active teaching and learning techniques. 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. A teaching style that provides multiple approaches to content, process, and product. Content is the input, what students learn; Process is how student make sense of the ideas and information; and Product is the output, how students demonstrate what they have learned. Student centered. Learning is most effective when experiences are engaging, relevant, and interesting. A blend of whole-class, group, and individual instruction.In a differentiated classroom and laboratory, the teacher proactively plans and carries out variedapproaches to content, process, and product in anticipation and response to student differences inreadiness, interest, and learning needs. During the past twenty years, my teaching responsibilitieshave been focused on fluid power, programmable logic controllers, electro-mechanical systems,and robotics curriculums. In addition to lectures, all of these areas include a significantlaboratory component, both of which have benefitted from implementing active learningstrategies.This next phase of this presentation will provides participants with insights into some of the“tools” and “methods” utilized in developing an active teaching environment.Topics included in the “Learning” section include: 1) Focusing on Learning and Not Teaching;2) Problem Based Learning; 3) Facilitating Group Learning (Promoting Accountability, LinkingAssignments, and Stimulating the Idea Exchange); 4) Changing Learning Behavior Outside theClassroom; and 5) Preparing to Teach. Topics included in the “Teaching” section include: 1)The Seven “Good Practices” for Teachers; 2) Teaching with Hospitality; 3) The Importance ofListening; and 4) Assessment Via the Minute Paper.The presented techniques are not cumbersome or extremely involved. In fact they are fun andvery straightforward. The purpose of this presentation is to learn more about these practical andhelpful teaching ideas that can easily be implemented into your classes and laboratories.Examples and brief case studies are utilized to increase clarity and understanding.

Marshall, J. (2011, June), Differentiated Instruction and Active Learning Environments Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17781

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