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Review of In-class Active Learning Observation Protocols

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Faculty Perspectives of Active Learning, Inequity, and Curricular Change

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Allison Van Beek University of Toronto

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Allison is a third year PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. She's part of the collaborative Engineering Education program. Her supervisor is Prof. Susan McCahan.

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Susan McCahan University of Toronto

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Susan McCahan is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. She currently holds the positions of Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education and Vice-Provost, Academic Programs. She received her B.S. (Mechanical Engineering) from Cornell University, and M.S. and Ph.D. (Mechanical Engineering) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of contributions to engineering education has been the recipient of several major teaching and teaching leadership awards including the 3M National Teaching Fellowship and the Medal of Distinction in Engineering Education from Engineers Canada.

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This review paper examines the literature on classroom observation methods with an emphasis on observation protocols that are appropriate for active learning classrooms in engineering. Classroom observations have been used for professional development (e.g., formative feedback, evaluation of teaching) and administrative assessment (e.g., program evaluation). The focus of this work is to identify a protocol for collecting observation data to provide insight into active learning activity in STEM education and to inform design decisions for future active learning classroom space and technology design. With the emergence of purpose-built active learning classrooms, observations can capture active learning pedagogies and characterize the fit between teaching strategies and space affordances. This paper provides an overview of classroom observation protocols, and particularly those that were designed for active learning pedagogies. The review of these protocols identifies the advantages of each, and the aspects of the protocols that are suited to providing information on space design. Active classrooms typically include a physical layout that supports collaborative learning, and technology that supports interaction. To produce feedback on space design, a protocol should provide insight on the way STEM instructors makes use of both the physical layout and the technology to realize their teaching goals. We found that the existing protocols meet many, but not all of the requirements. We propose a hybrid protocol, that combines two existing frameworks, specifically aimed at providing information for active classroom design.

Van Beek, A., & McCahan, S. (2021, July), Review of In-class Active Learning Observation Protocols Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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