Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Educational Research and Methods
This Evidence-based Practice Paper responds to the call for “a more nuanced approach to active learning” (Streveler & Menekse, 2017, p. 189), required because it no longer moves the field of engineering education forward to ask “does active learning work?” Instead, Steveler and Menekse (2017) suggest it is necessary to pay attention to the particular context, studying which active learning practices best support specific learning outcomes and student populations.
Consistent with this call, we facilitate a month-long faculty professional learning program on Engineering Learning, an intentional design process that helps faculty focus not simply on implementing active learning, but more specifically on appropriately aligning instructional strategies with learning outcomes and assessments (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). To detect changes in faculty teaching practice as a result of attending the Engineering Learning Intensive, we developed the Engineering Learning Classroom Observation Tool (ELCOT; Authors, 2017). In this paper, we describe the context and theoretical grounding for the ELCOT, compare it with existing classroom observation protocols, and, using case studies of two faculty members, illustrate the potential of the tool to enhance our understanding of active learning.
The Engineering Learning Intensive drove the development of the ELCOT, and both the program and the protocol share similar theoretical groundings, including backward design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), Webb’s depth of knowledge (2007), and Principles of Learning (Resnick, 1999). These frameworks represent some of the material faculty interact with during the Intensive and, as such, guide what aspects of the classroom observers attend to when using the ELCOT. The categories observers code include student organization, student talk, student activity, and instructor activity, each of which includes subcodes. The protocol also captures the instructor’s stated learning objectives for the class and the observer’s judgment of the alignment between the objectives and the classroom activities.
When compared to existing classroom observation protocols, such as the COPUS (Smith et al., 2013) and the RTOP (Sawada et al., 2002), the ELCOT highlights complexities in the implementation of active learning that are not well captured in other protocols. For our purposes, it was better aligned with the aspects of the classroom we wanted to pay attention to: namely, those aligned with what faculty learned about during the Engineering Learning Intensive. Additionally, the ELCOT helps observers attend to the broader alignment between classroom activities and learning objectives, rather than the presence or absence of active learning alone.
To illustrate how the ELCOT provides a more complex picture of teaching practices, we describe case studies of two faculty members who participated in the Engineering Learning Intensive. Each of these faculty members was observed before and after the Intensive, and the ELCOT was able to detect both dramatic and subtle shifts in their teaching practices. Thus, by attending to the specific characteristics and alignment of active learning, the ELCOT helps us move beyond asking whether or not active learning works. Instead, its focus on nuances in context, alignment, and implementation will help continue to move the field forward.
Sanders, M., & Spiegel, S., & Sherer, J. Z. (2018, June), Moving Beyond "Does Active Learning Work?" with the Engineering Learning Observation Protocol (ELCOT) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30827
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