Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
The benefits of active learning are well-understood and supported by research . However, active learning can be a nightmare for students with learning disabilities and there is little evidence that it is inclusive to these individuals.
Learning disabilities affect a person’s ability to receive, store, and process information, along with retrieving and communicating information . A common characteristic found in students with learning disabilities is that they require extra time to assimilate information from a lecture. Consequently, an active learning activity can present challenges when it requires immediate recall of new information. There is an immediate need to understand the potentially damaging effects active learning can have on this group of students who already face challenges in the classroom and are underrepresented in STEM education.
This preliminary work seeks to determine if active learning is more effective when students with learning disabilities are first front-loaded with information. Frontloading is a form of teaching that uses engaging strategies to introduce and scaffold material for students. During this process, students are intentionally exposed to vocabulary, concepts, and skills that they will learn later in the lesson. Numerous studies in K-12 show that frontloading assignments is critical for students with specific learning disabilities because it allows them to see the context of the lesson ahead of time. The literature is void of frontloading in post-secondary education STEM fields. It is hypothesized that by combining frontloading and active learning, the resulting hybrid will become a more beneficial teaching method for students with learning disabilities.
The work proposed here is being implemented into a core engineering course typically taken by freshman. To increase student engagement and retention, active learning has been a key component of the course. To test the hypothesis, frontloading materials are being implemented weekly. Specific focus is being placed on how and when to frontload. How frontloading will be executed is being driven by lesson content. Frontloading techniques currently used in K-12 classrooms being adapted in this study include KWL charts, anticipation guides, group discussions, concept webs, and brainstorming.
An ideal investigation would include an experimental group, students with learning disabilities who are frontloaded, and a control group, students with learning disabilities who are not frontloaded. However, since there is a variable number of students with learning disabilities enrolled each semester, a statistically meaningful sample size cannot be guaranteed. Instead, all enrolled students are being frontloaded. A focus group comprising of student volunteers with learning disabilities will be formed to obtain qualitative results.
The overall effectiveness of the investigation will be assessed via videotaped student focus group interviews. Students with learning disabilities will be identified through the Student Disability Services office. Using a focus group as opposed to individual surveys has many potential benefits. A focus group can be a powerful tool for gaining information not accessible in individual interviews. For example, interactions between group members may stimulate memories and ideas that would not have surfaced in an individual interview .
References 1. National Academy of Engineering, “Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century,” National Academies Press, November 2005. 2. Gonzalez, Fernando, “For Some, Active Learning can be a Nightmare,” ASEE PRISM, 2016. 3. Van Note Chism, N., Douglas, E., and Hilson Jr., W., “Qualitative Research Basics: A Guide for Engineering Educators,” NSF Rigorous Research in Engineering Education Grant.
O'Neil, J. A., & Gordon, M. E., & Gordon, A., & Rice, B. S., & De Angelis, G. (2018, June), Is Unaided Active Learning an Effective Teaching Method for Those with Learning Disabilities? Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30736
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