The PCAST Report Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cites a critical need to dramatically increase the number of STEM graduates over the next decade. The report elaborates that uninspiring courses drive some skilled students away from STEM majors and, in addition, students from underrepresented groups often leave due to an unwelcoming environment. The report concludes that a change to evidence-based instructional practices where students actively engage in content is needed. However, education scholars such as Biggs and Felder go even further. They argue that effective course implementation needs more than effective learning activities; courses also need to be built on a constructive alignment where the learning outcomes, class learning activities, and assessments have coherence and all reinforce one another at the same level of cognitive engagement. When implementing evidence-based instructional practices, there is a need for a holistic strategy at the course level.
There is a wide body of evidence that active learning positively impacts student achievement and engagement and reduces the performance gap of underrepresented students. However, there is rarely a description of what all the active learning elements are or how they fit together with other important aspects of delivering a class. Hence faculty have little guidance about how these practices might fit together into a course. In this talk, we will present a graphical tool that illustrates what we term the “anatomy” of highly structured course, and illustrate its use through application to a course in Material Balances. The intent of the tool is to provide a description of what different key elements are in play and how they might act in concert to produce learning. This graphical tool can be used to: (i) improve delivery of this course; (ii) be applied to other courses, (iii) and provide information for instructors to help them move towards high-structure. It is being developed as part of a larger effort at Oregon State University to enhance STEM education (ESTEME@OSU) through implementation of evidence-based instructional practices.
The course studied is a quarter-based sophomore-level Material Balance that had over 300 students enrolled. The course integrates active learning in several ways. Each week, students use a technology-based response system (Concept Warehouse) to answer concept questions and interact with one another and the instructor in class as they make meaning of their answers. Later in the week, they break into smaller studios and work in teams of three around structured activity that is facilitated by the instructor or a graduate teaching assistant. There are also regular individual and team reflection activities throughout the term. As we describe this course’s anatomy, we consider how these activities align with the stated learning objectives, the homework assignments, and the individual exam questions.
See more of this Group/Topical: Education Division