2018 Rutgers Active Learning Symposium

This day-long event, the successor to the annual Active Learning Boot Camp, was a day of discussions, presentations, poster sessions, and workshops relating to various topics in active learning. Practitioners of active learning at Rutgers and other institutions explored different approaches to collaborative learning, shared insights from their experiences, and explored different teaching techniques. 

The centerpiece of the day was two keynote presentations from Dr. Kimberly Tanner of San Francisco State University. Dr. Tanner, a neurobiologist by training, founded the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory, which explores how students learn science and various ways to have that learning reflect how scientists work.  Through her work, she was written extensively on the use of active learning from the perspective of faculty and neuroscience.

The day's 25 and 50-minute sessions offered guests the opportunity to select the different areas they wanted to explore; whether it was gamification, medical demonstration, course construction, or any of the many featured topics. Rutgers guests also had an opportunity to strategize with instructional designers about how they can incorporate some of the ideas they heard into their teaching. For more information on the day's proceedings, explore the section below.  

Sessions

Click on a session to view summaries and presentation materials.

Active Learning in General Biology: Helping Students Develop Career Skills

Monica Torres

This poster session highlighted the General Biology (GB) Program at Rutgers. GB is a sequence of three courses (115, 116, 117) for undergraduate students majoring in the life sciences and pharmacy, or who intend to attend a professional school in the sciences. Students in GB workshop and laboratory gain experience with learning-how-to-learn, laboratory skills, critical thinking, and the process of science. Through active learning opportunities, the GB program facilitates student success as they transition from the high school experience to upper level courses and the acquisition of internships, research positions, and other experiential learning opportunities essential for career preparation.

Monica Torres received a PhD in Plant Biology from Rutgers University. She has been part of the General Biology program since 2011. She redesigned and implemented the active learning general biology curriculum in the Biological Research Laboratory (117) course.

Active Learning in Mathematics

John Kerrigan

John KerriganThis presentation discussed some of the research-based strategies used in a Calculus II course delivered in an active learning classroom. Topics included creating a welcoming active learning environment, designing opportunities for peer teaching, game-based learning, and the role of metacognition and reflection in the classroom. Special focus was placed on how to use the design features of the room to enhance learning and collaboration.

John Kerrigan is the K-12 Director of Mathematics at Middletown Township Schools. He is also an adjunct professor in the Math Department at Rutgers and recently was awarded his EdD in the Design of Learning Environments from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. He also holds Master’s degrees in educational leadership and math education. John has taught several courses in the Rutgers active learning rooms and tweets actively about his students exploits with educational technology and active learning from his @kerrigan_john handle.

Active Learning in the Developmental Math Classroom

Matthew Sokol

This poster session detailed how SUNY Westchester Community College addressed low success rates in developmental math. Under a new flipped model, students come to class in a lab setting and work through a self-paced online classroom while the instructor floats around the room and works with students specifically on what they are struggling with. The poster presented and compared the success rates of students in developmental math across traditional lecture classrooms, active learning classrooms, and online Classrooms over the past several years.

Matthew Sokol is a Professor of Mathematics at SUNY Westchester. He teaches a wide range of mathematics courses and is interested in studying the effectiveness of alternative teaching methods in developmental mathematics.

Active Learning Transformation of a STEM Megacourse

Christy Beal, Dan Stern Cardinale, Anne Keating, Calvin Yu (moderator)

Active Learning Transformation of a STEM Megacourse: We Did It and You Can Too! detailed the redesign of General Biology around an active learning paradigm. Active learning activities facilitate the development of student skills such as problem solving and active, self-reflective learning. Implementation of active learning in General Biology required the revision and alignment of student learning and instructional practices, assessment, and the development of the new General Biology workshop and laboratory. Workshop provides an active learning environment for both team-oriented practice and adequate mentorship of relational understanding of life science. Laboratory provides experience with hands-on activities, laboratory skills, critical thinking, and the process of science. The redesign required iterative evaluation and revision of curriculum, outcomes, student learning practices, and assessments. Ultimately, these changes allow students to develop skills, most importantly relational thinking, problem-solving, and learning-how-to-learn, that are applicable to any subsequent course in any subject. Given the number of students (2000+), faculty, and teaching assistants involved in the General Biology program, we conclude that these changes can be implemented in any course. 

Christy Beal is an Assistant Teaching Professor at Rutgers University in the Division of Life Sciences. She received her PhD in Entomology and Applied Ecology from the University of Delaware.

Dan Stern Cardinale, PhD is an evolutionary biologist.  He has been with General Biology at Rutgers since 2009.

Anne Keating, PhD, is parasite ecologist.  She has been part of the General Biology team at Rutgers since 2003.

Calvin Yu, PhD is the Director of Assessment at the Office of Undergraduate Instruction, in the Division of Life Science, at Rutgers University. He currently serves as a peer evaluator for Middle States Commission of Higher Education. Previously he served as Director and Learning Specialist at the Cook/Douglass Learning Center at Rutgers University. He has served as President of PA/NJ College Reading Learning Association.

Become the Dean of Fun

Rachel Kremen

Dave WyrtzenThis session showed guests how to add the Three Es – Energy, Enthusiasm and Excitement – to your classroom using traditional games. These playful activities engage students with core content to improve learning outcomes, increase student participation and confidence.

Before coming to Rutgers University’s School of Communication and Information, Rachel Kremen worked as a reporter, editor, and play therapist. She’s combined what she’s learned in those divergent fields to create an engaging learning environment. A former MIT Knight Science Fellow, Kremen currently teaches courses in programming, science writing, design, media law, and ethics.

Resources

Breakout Session

A room was set aside as an opportunity for people to form their own topic groups.  

Distance Learning Without Feeling Distant

Colin von Liebtag & Marta Pulley

“There’s no sense of community. It feels like there is more busy work. The class feels more transactional than relational.” To help students learn from a distance without feeling distant in an online Career Management course, the presenters established learning modules that incorporate active learning principles based on student-student, student-instructor, and student-content interaction. The session covered topics such as how to leverage tools in Canvas, the online learning platform, the creation of original audio/video recordings, discussion boards, video content viewing, peer-peer critiques, project-based learning, simulations, and the use of a flipped classroom methodology.

Colin von Liebtag is an instructor and curriculum developer for the newly formed Career Management online course offered through the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers. In addition, he works with the Rutgers University Alumni Association and University Career Services to develop the alumni career services program. He holds his Master’s in Social Work in Management and Policy from Rutgers.

Marta Pulley is an instructional technology specialist at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She collaborates with faculty and program directors to design and revise online courses, from pre-design analysis through evaluation. Marta has a Master’s degree in Instructional Design & Technology from Walden University. She is also a Professional Project Manager (PMP).

Resources

General Biology Workshops: Preparing Students

Neeta Yousaf & Gregg Transue

To meet the challenge of the AAAS/HHMI (2009) Vision & Change report, the General Biology program was redesigned to provide a student centered active learning environment. Using Brigg’s SOLO taxonomy to align curricula, language, assessments, and activities, the General Biology workshop provides students the opportunity to actively and collaboratively construction information so that they can be both content experts and problem solvers. Participants in General Biology Workshops: Preparing Students for Problem Solving, Innovation, and Collaboration did the activities of a typical GB workshop.

Neeta Yousaf has been with General Biology since 2014. Her undergraduate training is in tissue culture research, but she discovered the world of Food Science after working at PepsiCo and came to Rutgers for a PhD in Food Science. She is passionate about teaching and learning from collaboration.

Gregg Transue, PhD, is the Director of General Biology. He is a seabird ecologist and has been involved with General Biology since 1982.

How Learning Assistants Can Help Foster Active Learning

Alice Seneres

Alice SeneresThe Learning Assistant Program engages undergraduates in classroom teaching and learning while helping them develop their teaching, leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills.  Learning Assistants (LAs) are in a lecture, lab, recitation, or leading a weekly study group. Learning Assistants help foster and facilitate discussion during active learning portions of a class, can provide insight to the faculty about what students are wrestling with, and can be role models to the students.  At Rutgers-New Brunswick, the LA Program is a partnership between the Learning Centers and several academic department. The program is part of the national Learning Assistant Alliance, developed at the University of Colorado in 2001. Participants in this session discussed the three essential elements of the LA Program, and reviewed resources available for faculty and staff interested in exploring having Learning Assistants at their institution.

Alice Seneres is the Director of Integrated Academic Support Programs with the Learning Centers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and oversees the Learning Assistant Program. She earned her PhD in Mathematics Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. She previously was a mechanical engineer and taught college mathematics.

Resources

Implementing Creativity and Imaginative Learning into STEM Courses

Ryan DeGregorio

This poster described several ways that educational institutions have tried to not only measure creativity and imagination, but to put forth new methods of teaching that enhance these practices. Ryan’s research includes studies that have experimented with new forms of giving lectures, leading student-centered activities, and testing. This session also discussed research suggesting reform for elementary and high school education to make learning more interactive and less rote.

Ryan DeGregorio is a master's student at the Florida Institute of Technology and a Rutgers University alumnus. He is studying astrophysics and is motivated to pursue a career in education. Ryan has also worked for the Rutgers Learning Center for three years.

Increasing Student Engagement Through the Co-Teaching Model

Sari Katzen & Alice Seneres

This session discussed the adoption of a co-teaching model in the pedagogy course for the Peer Instructor Education program, where this approach was applied to a flipped classroom environment. The presenters discussed different forms of co-teaching, and how they impacted student engagement and levels of support from a curricular perspective. Evaluations from students in courses in both co-taught and solo-instructor sections will be discussed. The session also covered implications of research for practice, as well as the challenges of implementing this model.

Sari Katzen is currently the Program Coordinator of Integrated Academic Support Programs at the Learning Centers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She coordinates the Learning Assistant (LA) Program at the Learning Centers and teaches a section of the pedagogy course (Peer Instructor Education) required for all first-semester LAs. Sari earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Rutgers and Master’s degree in Biology from the College of Staten Island.

Alice Seneres is the Director of Integrated Academic Support Programs with the Learning Centers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, and oversees the Learning Assistant Program. She earned her PhD in Mathematics Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. She previously was a mechanical engineer and taught college mathematics.

Resources

Instructional Design Consultations

Dena Novak, Mary Labrada, & Joe Yankus

Have today’s sessions inspired you to tackle active learning in your class?  Would you to utilize something you heard but are not sure where to begin? Rutgers faculty were invited to a pop-up session with Instructional Designers from the Teaching and Learning with Technology team who help faculty identify effective strategies and implement them in their class, from activity design to wholesale curriculum change.

Dena Novak is a Senior Instructional Designer at Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT). She has a BA in English and an MA in Education from Rutgers University, and has taught both online and face-to-face courses at Rutgers. Areas of interest include educational technology and tools, active learning, and Universal Design for Learning.

Mary Labrada is an Instructional Designer at TLT. She earned her BS in Exercise Science from Rutgers University and her MEd in Instructional Design from the University of Massachusetts Boston Online. Before joining TLT, she spent 8 years supporting students and faculty in medical education at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Areas of interest include best practices for online student engagement and faculty training and development. 

Joe Yankus is an Instructional Designer at TLT. Prior to arriving at Rutgers, Joe spent eight years at Seton Hall University, where he earned his BA in Communication Studies & Sociology and his MA in Instructional Design & Technology. Areas of interest include academic multimedia production and promotion of evidence-based best practices for online instruction. 

Resources

Order Matters: Becoming Metacognitive About Teaching Choices

Kimberly Tanner

What teaching choices are we making as instructors, and why? How do we as instructors decide how to spend in-class time with students? To what extent do our teaching plans align with what is known about how the brain learns? What tools are available to become more analytical about our teaching choices and strategize for change? In this interactive workshop, participant will explored their current approaches to planning and reflecting on their teaching and explored the 5E learning cycle model as an analytical tool for understanding teaching choices. Individual participants had the opportunity to self-assess and analyze current class sessions and identify changes that could be immediately implemented.

Dr. Kimberly Tanner is a tenured Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Her laboratory – SEPAL: the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory – investigates what is challenging to learn in biology, how biologists choose to teach, and how to make equity, diversity, and inclusion central in science education efforts. Her research, science education partnership, and faculty professional development efforts at SFSU have been funded by more than $9 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Trained as a neurobiologist with postdoctoral studies in science education, Dr. Tanner is a proud first-generation college-going student. She earned her BA in Biochemistry from Rice University, her PhD in Neuroscience from UCSF, and completed a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology Education (PFSMETE) jointly between Stanford University and UCSF. Dr. Tanner has been nationally and internationally recognized for both her research and her teaching in biology. She is an Elected Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and has received the 2012 National Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award from the Society for College Science Teachers, the 2017 Bruce Alberts Science Education Award from the American Society for Cell Biology, the 2018 SFSU Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the 2018 UCSF Audacious Alumni Award.

Resources

Predator and Prey: Active Learning is Social Learning

Kenneth Ronkowitz

Based on the premise that active learning is often social learning, this session was largely hands-on using a problem solving activity identifying animal species based on skulls. With little or no background in this topic, learners can use active and social learning and everyday technology to complete this task.

Kenneth Ronkowitz is the principal of Ronkowitz LLC, which develops training and professional development resources and other services from K-12 schools, higher education, and industry. He is also an adjunct instructor in the humanities at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and teaches courses in several areas with a focus on social media. He is a graduate of Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

Resources

Problem-Solving in the Humanities Active Learning Classroom

Richard Serrano

This session began with the premise that active learning seems particularly appropriate for courses that focus on problem-solving, such as Computer Science, Economics and Mathematics. In order to fully utilize all the resources of the active learning classroom and its methodologies, the Humanities instructor needs to rethink her or his course and break it down into a series of problems that can be investigated by students (although, unlike problems in the sciences, Humanities problems can seldom be solved). This presentation offered suggestions for how to break a lecture course into a series of problems to be addressed by students engaged in active learning.

Richard Serrano is Professor of French and Comparative Literature and chair of the French Department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. He has taught in Rutgers active learning spaces several times, beginning with his World Mythology course in the Livingston Learning Center. He will be touring several universities in the upcoming months to observe their teaching and learning programs. He received his PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley.

Science on the Move: Implementation of Active Learning

Patricia Irizarry

Science on the Move: Implementation of Active Learning in Informal Education Environments focused on how to utilize different spaces, such as museums, mobile laboratories, and formal classrooms to incorporate active learning strategies to engage non-expert audiences in STEM fields. Participants specifically looked at informal education settings that foster a culture of outreach and diversity including graduate and undergraduate student populations and the K-12 community.

Patricia Irizarry is an assistant teaching professor and Director of Outreach at the Math and Science Learning Center at Rutgers University. She completed a BS in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, then earned a PhD degree in Molecular Biosciences from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She is currently working with graduate and undergraduate students developing programs to increase interest in STEM disciplines among the K-12 community and is also interested in increasing participation of underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences and other STEM disciplines.

Science on the Move: Using Active Learning Strategies

Patricia Irizarry & Jessica Johnson

The Science on the Move: Using Active Learning Strategies to Engage Middle School Students in STEM poster presentation focused on the implementation of active learning on board of the Rutgers Science Explorer (RSE) bus and its curriculum. The RSE is a mobile lab designed to engage middle school students in STEM disciplines. Students participate in ninety minute explorations where the middle school students are introduced to a STEM Field and perform experiments to solve a problem.

Patricia Irizarry is an assistant teaching professor and Director of Outreach at the Math and Science Learning Center at Rutgers University. She completed a BS in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, then earned a PhD degree in Molecular Biosciences from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She is currently working with graduate and undergraduate students developing programs to increase interest in STEM disciplines among the K-12 community and is also interested in increasing participation of underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences and other STEM disciplines.

Jessica Johnson is a PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rutgers University.  She completed a BA in Physics from CUNY Hunter College in New York. Currently, Jessica is researching the coupling of electrochemical and mechanical properties in 2D electrode materials. She is also part of the Rutgers Science Explorer program and leads tours at Rutgers’ Math and Science Learning Center to K-12 students.

Simulation Training in Vascular Surgery

Randy Shafritz

Training of surgical residents is extremely challenging. Trainees have to be proficient in both the management of medical issues of their patients as well as the surgical issues. In addition, they have to learn proper operating room etiquette, a myriad of surgical skills, and an ever changing landscape of surgical techniques and tools. Traditionally, this learning took place in real time, in the operating room, on real patients. Surgical education had changed drastically over the last several years, and there is now a significant focus on objectively measuring Professionalism, Behavioral skills, and yes, surgical skills. There is now a push for surgical skills to be objectively measured and for there to be a minimum standard that all surgical residents must obtain prior to their graduation. Surgical skills labs have been developed to aid surgical residents in surgical skills training. Mandatory skills sessions are becoming a part of the teaching curriculum. This presentation presented an advanced approach to surgical skills training of a vascular surgery resident, introduced what an endovascular simulator is capable of, and suggested that this type of training should be mandatory for all surgical residents.

Randy Shafritz obtained his Master’s degree in Applied Human Physiology from Hahnemann University and his MD degree in 1990 from Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.. He has been a full time faculty member here at Rutgers, the Program Director of both the Vascular Surgery Fellowship and Integrated Residency Programs, the Medical Director of the Vascular Laboratory at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Medical Director of the University Vein Center, and the Co-Medical Director of the Restorix Wound Care Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.

Talk Matters: Investigating the Nature of Non-Content Classroom Language

Kimberly Tanner

Through the language they use, instructors create classroom environments that have the potential to impact learning by affecting student motivation, resistance, belonging, and self-efficacy. However, little research has investigated what instructors are saying in undergraduate classrooms. In Talk Matters: Investigating the Nature of Non-Content Classroom Language that May Mediate Student Inclusion, Engagement, and Learning attendees systematically investigated instructor language that was not directly related to content and found about 10 percent can be characterized as non-productive or potentially discouraging in nature. We draw conclusions about the role of non-content language in creating inclusive learning environments.

Dr. Kimberly Tanner is a tenured Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Her laboratory – SEPAL: the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory – investigates what is challenging to learn in biology, how biologists choose to teach, and how to make equity, diversity, and inclusion central in science education efforts. Her research, science education partnership, and faculty professional development efforts at SFSU have been funded by more than $9 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Trained as a neurobiologist with postdoctoral studies in science education, Dr. Tanner is a proud first-generation college-going student. She earned her BA in Biochemistry from Rice University, her PhD in Neuroscience from UCSF, and completed a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science, Math, Engineering, and Technology Education (PFSMETE) jointly between Stanford University and UCSF. Dr. Tanner has been nationally and internationally recognized for both her research and her teaching in biology. She is an Elected Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and has received the 2012 National Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teacher Award from the Society for College Science Teachers, the 2017 Bruce Alberts Science Education Award from the American Society for Cell Biology, the 2018 SFSU Distinguished Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the 2018 UCSF Audacious Alumni Award.

Resources

Team Based Learning 101

Laura Willett

Laura WillettAre learners falling asleep in your conferences? TBL is a technique which increases learner engagement and can be applied to large or small groups of learners. In this workshop, participants received a brief description of TBL. For most of the session, participants learned about steps of TBL while using the interactive process of TBL: team construction; readiness assessment testing; in-class solving and answering of application problems; and grading/incentives. The application problems focused on faculty creation of TBL experiences and the special challenges associated with the application of TBL techniques. 

Laura Willett is the Professor of Medicine with the Division of Education and General Internist teaching medical students and residents in the clinical setting as well as the classroom, with a special interest in active learning techniques.

Resources

Translating Active Learning to Active Teaching: Techniques for Future Faculty

Kati Beluska

Kati Beluska

The active learning model can inform the development of effective teaching strategies that are reproducible in any classroom environment, with any age group, and across an entire career. Active and continual course assessment and structuring guides faculty to create a successful learning environment for students by allowing for continuous assessment of course goals and effectiveness; creating transparency in course goals for students; and as a template for generations of graduate students who are future faculty.

Kati Beluska is a doctoral student in the Nutritional Sciences department, studying body weight perception in families with preschoolers. Kati’s professional goals include teaching full-time at the university level, inspiring kids to careers in the STEAM fields, and to solve world hunger.

Staying Involved

The Active Learning Community offers opportunities to develop your teaching and connect with colleagues throughout the year.  Visit the Get Involved page for ideas on how you can stay involved.