V06: Intro. physics active class

What proven (i.e. evidence-based) active learning strategies work well in very large first year physics classrooms?  This 8-minute video clip describes and illustrates active learning strategies involving worksheets and clickers being used in lecture theater with 250 students. The interactions between experts and novices (i.e. instructor and students) are emphasized, and the power of peer instruction is identified.

In this class worksheet-based activities and clickers are used throughout the lesson along with some timely short lectures, solo work and paired or whole-class discussions. These strategies enable the instructor and his assistants to SEE student thinking and to react appropriately and efficiently to address common difficulties. See additional information using the menu to the left.

Below the video window are additional remarks on how students work and suggested instructional practices to look for while watching.

WHEN WATCHING THIS 8:12 min. VIDEO, look for…

Students: how they WORK

  1. All students know what to expect and how to make use of this opportunity to practice new skills and apply new knowledge under the guidance of experts.
  2. Notice that students feel “safe” to speak out and try suggesting ideas that they are not sure about. This is a “comfortable” learning setting where respect and exploratory thinking are encouraged.
  3. During Socratic lecturing, the instructor elicits interactions with individuals by presenting by questioning rather than by “telling”. He ensures that not only one or two students are involved.
  4. All students have “clickers” and know they are expected to use them every day.

Aspects of instructional practice to notice include:

  1. Narration in this video outlines the instructor’s perspectives, reasons for particular strategies and their order, and some of the benefits (and challenges) of teaching this way.
  2. The experts (i.e. the instructor and a teaching assistant ) circulate and observes novices (i.e. the students) thinking as much as possible. Efficient teaching depends on seeing/hearing thinking so that difficulties can be detected and feedback provided where and when needed. This also prevents spending time on aspects about which students are generally clear.
  3. Lecturing (i.e. “telling”) is strategic. It serves to amplify or elaborate or provide expert perspectives on aspects that students have already started thinking about. There is rarely any simple delivery of new facts and figures. An element of story-telling is also included during lectures.
  4. The instructor refers to “pre-readings”. Students have encountered basic new content before coming to class. Therefore, the instructor can spend time in class contributing expertise that helps students think rather than simply delivering facts and figures.
  5. See other videos at this site (https://blogs.ubc.ca/wpvc) for examples of active learning in other settings (geoscience, physics, climate science, 1st and 3rd year service courses and 2nd year core courses, etc.)

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