Experiences: Weekly “active Fridays” mean students start work immediately. Ad hoc groups form easily. No student is idle.
Learning: Groups are discussing / arguing about concepts. Worksheets guide tasks and scaffold the learning. Last week’s data from the lab are needed. Resources include images and diagrams projected or on paper, and sometimes computers and the internet.
Novices-expert interactions: the instructor and TAs check progress, listen to thinking, respond to questions using Socratic tutoring, guide thinking without telling answers. Therefore, help is focused on difficult concepts and ALL students can benefit from targeted feedback and support.
Guidance strategies: This is ‘tutoring’ on a large scale. Instructors and TAs should ask “how’s it going”, etc. This causes students to consider their thinking, ask questions, and make optimal use of experts.
Remind students of purposes and the key frame work concepts that underlie their application of new knowledge and skills.
Aspects of logistics to notice:
Arrival and starting is efficient because students know what to expect.
No time wasted during set up.
Ad hoc groups of four work well. Two facing two is the best configuration. Any room configuration can work.
One worksheet per group is filled out for grading, which involves simple rubrics such as “good, marginal, poor”. These exercises are NOT all about summative assessment – they are aimed at engaging students brains in practice and application of new knowledge and skills.
In some cases, completed worksheets may be provided online after the lesson is completed. This does not seem to result in reduced effort – all 150 students are engaged during these activities.
Instructors never get stuck with one group for more than a few minutes. A microphone helps the instructor interject without having to shout. An excellent 50-minute activity may take 2 or 3 iterations to perfect.
Having figures on the chalk board or screen, or at least available, helps with tutoring. After a couple of iterations you will know which figures will be needed.
Keeping 150 students on pace involves defining discrete tasks, addressing check points using a microphone, perhaps including clicker or other questioning to ensure all students have appropriate intermediate results to continue the 50 minute activity sequence.
Students answer these questions (end of clip):
What do you see as benefits of these activities?
Do you like these activity days?
Does this group work help you do well in this course?
THE CARL WIEMAN SCIENCE EDUCATION INITIATIVE:
Achieving the most effective science education, backed by evidence.
The CWSEI is a multi-year project at The University of British Columbia aimed at dramatically improving undergraduate science education.