More than seventy-five faculty and staff took part in the Active Learning Community's first Boot Camp, a day of talks, discussions, and demonstrations relating to active learning. Our special guest, Dr. Robert Beichner, spoke about his and other universities' successes in active learning,.Rutgers faculty and staff shared their experiences converting their courses. Instructional support staff demonstrated collaborative technologies, while faculty had an opportunity to discuss active learning with their colleagues. For more details about the day, including videos and presentations, please view the sections below.
Presentations, Workshops, and Panels
Robert Beichner, Ph.D. joined us from North Carolina State University where he is an Alumni Distinguished Professor. Dr. Beichner received his PhD in 1989 from the State University of New York at Buffalo and joined the NC State Physics Department in 1992. For much of his career he has focused his attention on redesigning introductory physics education. His work laid the foundation for research done on active learning spaces. The SCALE-UP (Student Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies) approach pioneered by Dr. Beichner has led to changes in classrooms around the world, at institutions ranging from middle schools and high schools to MIT. SCALE-UP has been adopted at more than 250 universities and had spread to content areas ranging from archeology to zoology. It has deeply informed the design of new active learning classroom coming to Rutgers in the Fall of 2016.
In this keynote talk, Dr. Beichner discussed the entrenched short-comings of lecture-only teaching and how SCALE-UP attempts to address them. Through his experience transforming his own teaching, working with other instructions of higher education, and studying the effects active learning has on the student learning experience, he provided a compelling case for rethinking the status quo.
In the Livingston Learning Center's collaborative space, Dr. Beichner led a wide ranging discussion that addressed how to form student groups, manage differing student attitudes and abilities, prepare students for active learning, and much more. Attendees were able to experience learning in an active learning class by participating in sample group activities lead by Dr. Beichner.
Sharla Sava, Ph.D., Team Lead for Instructional Design, and Ismael Lara, Sr. Instructional Designer, from the Office of Instructional and Research Technology, provided an overview of the stages involved in re-shaping your course from a traditional lecture into an active learning format. The workshop walked guests through the process of partnering with an instructional designer to brainstorm, plan, build, and implement an active learning course.
Sharon Stoerger, Ph.D., Director of the Information, Technology and Informatics program and Assistant Teaching Professor in the School of Communication and Information (SCI), and Denise Kreiger, M.Ed., Instructional Design and Technology Specialist with SCI Denise Kreiger, presented on their collaborative transformation of a large lecture hall course with enrollment up to 450 students (the “gateway” course in the undergraduate Information Technology and Informatics major in the School of Communication and Information) into an active, collaborative learning experience. This transformation was realized when the boundaries of the classroom extended into the “online” environment.
- Transforming a Large-Lecture Hall Course Presentation Slides
- Stoerger, Sharon & Kreiger, Denise. (2016). Transforming a large-lecture course into an active, engaging, and collaborative learning environment. Education for Information 32(1), 11-26.
In this panel discussion, four Rutgers instructors shared their experiences transitioning to and using active learning in the classroom.
- Waheed Bajwa, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, shared his experience using various active learning-oriented methods in his courses, including Poll Everywhere and the CatchBox throwable microphone.
- Francis Barchi, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, discussed her experience using collaborative groups in the Livingston Learning Center for an introductory global health course.
- Justin Kalef, Ph.D., Associate Undergraduate Director, Associate Teaching Professor, and Director of Curriculum and Online Development for the Department of Philosophy, spoke to his experience encouraging students to engage in philosophical reasoning through active learning.
- Daijiro Okada, Ph.D., Teaching Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Study in the Department of Economics, rounded out this faculty panel by offering insights from his extensive use of collaborative teaching methods.
Information Sessions & Demonstrations
Instructional Technologists from Digital Classroom Services demonstrated three teaching tools available at Rutgers that can be used to stimulate active learning.
- Poll Everywhere is a web-based response system that relies on students' own personal devices. Instructors can use instant polls to gauge student comprehension and encourage students to test their own understanding. Discussion tools enable instructors to solicit ideas and questions in large settings that are not typically conducive to participation.
- Solstice wireless display sharing can be used to project presentations from anywhere in the room and serve as a collaborative tool that enables students to share and compare computer-based work.
- CatchBox is a throwable microphone that can be used to aid students asking questions in lecture halls, help to moderate discussion, and add an element of fun to collaborative exercises.
Learn more about these technologies and how you can use them in your class by visiting the DCS Pilots page.
Staff from the Office of Instructional & Research Technology discussed tools that enable instructors to "flip" the classroom by moving lecture and source material online so that classroom time can be spent actively engaging with subject matter. The OIRT team demonstrated how you can promote active learning beyond the classroom by offering your instructional materials online (i.e. creating video lectures with Kaltura Media Space), continuing the conversation anytime (i.e. setting up effective discussions in your Sakai or Canvas course site) and organizing project-based collaborative assignments (i.e. using Asana, free project management software).
Attendees were provided with an introduction to the Learning Assistant (LA) Program, which provides undergraduate students to faculty to help run courses. Guest learned about how LAs can be used to aid the use of active learning methods and how Rutgers faculty can request LAs for their course. Learn more on the Rutgers Learning Center LA page.
Boot Camp Polls
Attendees were invited to participate in two live polls during the day's events.
In the day's first poll, attendees were asked to help design a feature of the new the active learning classroom in Tillett 204. Using their phones, guests were asked to answer the question "What words come to mind when you think of active learning?" More than seventy-five people responded, the results of which formed a word cloud. This world cloud will be converted into a pattern that will fill the room's windows, which look out on to the atrium.
Many thanks to everyone who was a part of the first Active Learning Boot Camp.