ERG SES G 11, Learning and Education
In a twenty first century society, students are expected to balance cognitive, personal, and interpersonal abilities. In fact, business and political leaders are increasingly asking schools to develop skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and self-management - often referred to as "21st century skills.", as mentioned in a National Research Council of the National Academies of Science report, in 2012. To achieve their full potential as adults, students need to develop a range of skills and knowledge that facilitate mastery and application of a variety of shifting subjects. Bearing this in mind, the incorporation of active learning strategies into the daily routine of classroom instruction may help students develop interpersonal skills such as complex communication and teamwork and intrapersonal skills such as resiliency and resourcefulness. Active learning can be defined as "anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing" (Bonwell & Eison, 1991), or as "anything course related that all students in a class session are called upon to do other than simply watching, listening and taking notes" (Felder & Brent, 2009).
Active learning strategies or techniques are based on the assumption that students learn more when they participate in the process of learning, either through discussion, practice, review, or application (Grunert, 1997). Even though this definition includes any instructional method that engages students in the learning process (often contrasting with the traditional lecture where students passively receive information from the instructor), some activities are particularly well suited to develop in an active learning class (Felder & Brent, 2003; Petty, 2009), such as cooperative work, jigsaw discussion, think-pair-share, case study or problem based learning (students use an investigative process to discover scientific or engineering answers for themselves). Most of these strategies were chosen based on an above average effect size (Marzano, 2001; Hattie, 2009), granting a greater measure of evidence based teaching and learning.
The present study conducted a longitudinal quantitative research methodology over three school years (from 2011/ 2012 to 2013/ 2014), involving two classes of students (n=36) and the same teacher, from the seventh (approximately 12 years old) to the ninth grade (approximately 15 years old) of their schooling. Itanalyses and compares the impact of active learning strategies and traditional lecture-based strategies on student’s Geography tests performance, through a quantitative analysis of students’ scores on Lower Order Thinking and Higher Order Thinking Skills questions, based on the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Collis, 1982). It also analyses and compares survey data conducted amongst the students in the seventh and ninth grade about the pupils’ perspectives of the different innovations carried out in classroom during the school years.
Its main objective consisted on identifying the changes that active learning techniques have produced in student´s tests scores and student´s perceptions on their own learning process. Results show that students’ performance on contents taught through active learning techniques progressively and significantly improves in higher order thinking questions, compared to those taught by traditional teaching techniques, and that students became increasingly aware of active learning methods as a way of enhancing their own learning experience. Since international research on the same subject seems to point to the same overall conclusions (Prince, 2004; Michael, 2006)), this may lead to greater European emphasis on developing active learning in the classroom.
Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co Inc. Biggs, J. B., & Collis, K. F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning. New York: Academic Press. Felder, R.M., "Reaching the Second Tier: Learning and Teaching Styles in College Science Education," Journal of College Science Teaching, vol. 23, no. 5, 1993. Felder, R.M., & Brent, R. (2003). Learning by doing. Chemical Engineering Education 37(4). Hattie, J. (2009) Visible Learning. Routledge Marzano, R. (2001). Classroom Instruction that Works. ASCD, USA. Michael, J. (2006). Where's the evidence that active learning works?. Advances in Physiology Education, 30(4), National Research Council (2012). Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Singer, J. D., & Willett, J. B. (2003). Applied longitudinal data analysis: Modeling change and event occurrence. New York, NY: Oxford university press. Petty, G. (2009). Teaching Today a Practical Guide. Nelson Thornes Ltd. Prince, M. (2004). Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3).
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