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Authentic Active Learning Activities Create Polished Products

Authentic Active Learning Activities Create Polished Products

Authentic Active Learning Activities Create Polished Products

It is important to distinguish between authentic learning activities and what are, in fact, exercises. An exercise is always in support of something else. It is an opportunity to practice a skill or demonstrate that certain competencies have been acquired before moving on. Authentic Active Learning activities create polished products which have value in themselves. The product has usually been created for sharing or publishing and the student has “polished” it for presentation. In other words it is an end-product that can stand on its own.

For Whom?

Traditionally student work is submitted to the teacher for grading. This means that the quality of the product will only be known to those two people. This confidentiality reduces the incentive that most of us experience when we know our peers will see the fruits of our labor. This eliminates an important  incentive to do our best work. It also implies that creating the product is only an exercise which does not connect to any reality outside the classroom.

Preparing work to be shared with others also creates demands on the student’s communication abilities. Thus the activity becomes multi-dimensional, reinforcing additional skills.

It is not necessary to limit the potential audience to the student’s classroom peers. Current technology permits going outside the walls in order to reach an audience in other contexts—other schools, other parts of the world. The bigger the context the more the incentive for the student  to put a significant effort into the work and the greater the pride of ownership that comes  from good results.

Student Publishing

Student publishing is very important for Active Learning teachers. (more…)

Authentic Active Learning Activities Integrate Assessments

Authentic Active Learning Activities Integrate Assesments

Authentic Active Learning Activities Integrate Assesments

We traditionally think of learning activities or lessons as distinct from assessments. For example we may teach three lessons then stop for a test, following a similar pattern throughout the school term. It is because we attribute a very limited role to assessment that this pattern is so typical. It overlooks the potential of assessments to provide feedback to students and to teachers—to be valuable learning activities in themselves. Authentic Active Learning activities integrate assessments as part of the learning stream.

It is helpful to think of assessment in three different ways.

Assessment of Learning

This form of assessment is often referred to as summative assessment. It is the kind of assessment done for the purpose of assigning a mark or grade. One of the challenges faced by Active Learning teachers is the selection of assessments that are suitable. Active Learning activities can span a greater intellectual range than more traditional strategies such as lecturing. Students can move beyond mere recall and simple understanding of concepts to the application, analysis, evaluation, and creation of new knowledge and artifacts. It therefore does not make sense to employ assessments such as multiple choice tests, for example, to measure the kinds of knowledge students may have acquired from their Active Learning activities. What does make sense is to design assessments which resemble the learning activities themselves. (more…)

Active Learning Strategies

Active Learning Strategies (Furniture by Steelcase, Trium, Montreal)

Active Learning Strategies (Furniture by Steelcase, Trium, Montreal)

A Google search returns nearly two hundred million references for Active Learning. While there are still many questions about Active Learning, teachers at all levels, K-12, college, and university, are now thinking about whether they want to have an Active Learning classroom.

An Active Learning classroom can be a special space designed to support Active Learning activities but more importantly it is a place where students are active learners. The Active Learning strategies are the key to improved learning experiences for your students. The Active Learning classroom supports the collaborative activities you have designed for them.

Why Active Learning?

The studies of Bonwell and Eison show that students prefer Active Learning  strategies to traditional lectures and that Active Learning strategies are superior to lectures in promoting the development of students’ thinking and writing skills. In addition, there are indications that, for a significant number of students, pedagogical techniques other than lecturing work better. Active Learners experience deeper and longer-lasting understanding because they cognitively engage with whatever they are studying: they learn by doing and thinking about what they are doing.

Active Learners are offered a wider range of cognitive experiences. In lectures students are challenged to remember and to understand. Active Learners, on the other hand, can attempt to apply, analyze, evaluate, and create, moving to the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Becoming an Active Learning teacher is therefore one of the main challenges facing educators at all levels and in all types of education.

The Shift

In the traditional view teaching (more…)