March 5, 2013
Use clicker questions as prompts for peer instruction
Instructors can use clicker questions to initiate a pair-share activity or peer instruction. When using peer instruction, faculty pose a question about a concept that many students have difficulty understanding. When presented as a ConcepTest clicker question, the answer options include statements of erroneous beliefs and misconceptions many students have about this topic. Before displaying the correct answer to the question, instructors ask students to discuss their answer with another student and try to persuade one another of the correct answer. When the question is posed a second time, more students will answer correctly, based on information they learn through discussion with peers. Instructors should follow a peer instruction activity with a discussion of why alternatives that represent misconceptions are wrong. They can elicit these comments from students. This activity creates unambiguous feedback about the correct response and reinforces the value of the peer learning activity.
Faculty in STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) have developed extensive collections of questions designed to probe student understanding of difficult concepts. Conduct a Google search on the terms ConcepTest and the name of your discipline to locate resources and examples of ConcepTest questions. Research on the impact of peer instruction activities supported by discussions of these questions indicates that peer instruction promotes deep and enduring learning.
Constructing questions that probe difficult concepts and identify common student misconceptions can be a daunting task. Fortunately, many faculty who use clicker questions for peer instruction collect their best questions and share these with other instructors. An excellent collection of clicker question collections is posted on the Concordia University Centre for Teaching and Learning Services website:
The site provides links to databases of clicker and ConcepTest questions for the following disciplines:
Chemistry (4 databases)
Mathematics (2 databases)
Many of these clicker questions use the ConcepTest format pioneered by Eric Mazur for implementing peer instruction in physics classes at Harvard. The Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (University of British Columbia) has an excellent set of resources for the use of clickers to promote student learning. This site also provides links to collections of ConcepTest and clicker questions for STEM disciplines.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science hosts a collection of questions that assess conceptual understanding of concepts in the sciences and identify common misconceptions held by students (with data on the percentage of students in grades 6-8 and 9-12 who endorse these misconceptions). The site also includes an archive of scholarly publications that document the existence of these misconceptions.
A related initiative associated with Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) examines how POGIL methods can be implemented through clicker questions. A discussion of this work in college courses in STEM can be found on the POGIL site.
February 5, 2013
Flipping Your Class with a Combination of a Case-study, Role-play, and Collaborative Learning
Instructors who are interested in experimenting with a “flipped class” format can use this activity to structure the pre-class preparation assignment and in-class active learning. This activity combines a case study with in-class role-play and collaborative learning to promote student learning. This activity is time-consuming and requires some preparation, which makes making it a good choice for a “flipped classroom” experience. Assign preparatory readings to students as pre-class homework. Plan to devote an entire class period for the group collaborative learning activity.
The case study component is a narrative that addresses a realistic issue and provides a basis for student discussion of important topics and problem-solving strategies. Cases can be based on actual events or a scenario you create to include key elements you want the class to discuss.
In the role-play component, each student assumes the role of one character in the case scenario. Players take responsibility for acting out roles in the case narrative, either through literal acting or by taking responsibility for making the decisions typically made by that character in the decision-making process enacted in the scenario.
The collaborative learning component of this activity is a Jigsaw technique. Students work in a small group to discuss the topic assigned and develop strategies for explaining the topic to others. Each group works on a different aspect of the case to become the “experts” on their assigned topic. Students then leave their expert group and join a new group comprised of one member from each expert topic group. In the new group, each student must teach his/her topic to the other members of the group. Finally, students rejoin their original group, discuss their experiences in the second group, and prepare to share their reflection on the case in a discussion with the entire class.
Pre-class assignment to prepare students for in-class activity
Assign a case for the students to read (with supporting documents as needed). The case should provide sufficient information on the topic to support a rich discussion. Assign the reading for the case (including supporting documents) ahead of class so students are prepared to learn from the class activity. Materials for the case study can be obtained from multiple sources:
Collaborative learning activity during class meeting
For example, if an environmental issue were to be addressed in the case study, different students could argue from the perspectives of a member of the general public, a representative from the business community, a scientist, a politician, or other relevant roles. This technique works well for case studies in disciplines that address multiple points of view (e.g., medical, political, economic, ethical, scientific, or other perspectives).
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brislin, T. (1995). Active learning in applied ethics instruction. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching. 6, 87-95.
MERLOT is a program of the California State University, in partnership with higher education institutions, professional societies, and industry. The MERLOT site archives peer reviewed teaching and learning materials in Arts, Business, Education Humanities, Mathematics and Statistics, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Workforce Development.
The National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, located at the University at Buffalo, houses an award-winning collection of peer-reviewed case studies for multiple STEM disciplines that faculty can download and use in their courses. The work of NCCSTS has been supported by the National Science Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the U.S. Department of Education.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy submitted to the Teaching Issues Writing Consortium by Bill Burke, Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT), University of Kentucky (http://www.uky.edu/celt/).
WKU Writer’s Consortium
October 16, 2012
Promote active learning and critical thinking skills in STEM by teaching with case studies
Schools of medicine, law and business have a long tradition of assigning cases to help students learn critical concepts and apply them to real-world applications.
Cases can be used to structure class discussion of critical issues or they can be assigned as projects for small group structured learning activities (team learning, problem-based learning, and other types of collaborative learning). A well-written case study will introduce students to essential disciplinary content and concepts. Case studies require students to use disciplinary thinking skills to analyze and propose effective solutions to real-world problems. Thus, students get practice using critical thinking skills on problems that connect course content to important issues and problems they may encounter in current news.
If you are new to using case studies and unsure about how to write a good case study or structure a learning activity based on case studies, you can find an outstanding collection of peer-reviewed cases on the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) web site (sponsored by the National Science Foundation). Case materials include the case handout (materials students receive when they begin the case study assignment), teaching notes (background material, suggestions for classroom management, discussion of critical learning outcomes for the case, and scholarly references), and an answer key or rubric to help instructors evaluate student work.
The NCCSTS collection includes analysis cases, dilemma/decision cases, cases that include discussions guided through clicker questions, cases for laboratory work, cases designed specifically for problem-based learning, guided discussions, debates, mock trials, jig-saw group learning activities, and role-play activities.
All cases archived on the NCCSTS site are peer reviewed. Faculty at UWF who develop their own case materials might consider submitting their work to NCCSTS as a component of their scholarship of teaching.
Visit the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science and search their collection peer-reviewed cases:
http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/collection/ (Link is inactive)
The data base is searchable by keyword, STEM discipline (identified as subject heading in the search engine menus), educational level (lower-division undergraduate, upper-division undergraduate, graduate, professional school, etc.), type of case, or topic area (ethics, scientific method, pseudoscience, social issues, legal issues, etc.).
Look under the Teaching Resources section to find publications, including downloadable PDF files with guidelines for writing and using case studies in teaching.
March 16, 2010
Engaging Students through Problem-Based and Collaborative Learning Activities
Activities that actively engage students with course content, provide opportunities to practice and apply discipline-based skills, and enable students to collaborate with one another to encourage peer instruction are effective methods for improving student learning and connecting students with one another and their institution.
The Center for Teaching & Learning at Brigham Young University hosts a web page on collaborative learning in which 5 faculty members describe collaborative learning activities they use in their courses, discuss their rationale for using these strategies, and share their observations of the benefits for student learning. Individual videos are short (the longest is about 7 minutes long) and include videos of students engaged in the activities described.
Topics discussed in these videos include:
William Baker, Management Communication
Video describes collaborative learning strategies in a Business Communication course, including the use of teams, peer instruction, peer review, and a capstone project.
Deborah Hines, Nursing
Video describes problem-based learning activities with peer coaching in a clinical setting.
Matthew Mason, History
Video describes active learning strategies that engage students with primary resources and develop communication skills.
Video describes the use of a short writing activity at the beginning of class to promote student preparation for class and support in-class discussion.
Center for Teaching & Learning, Brigham Young University
Videos of faculty discussing their use of a collaborative learning strategy
Updated 03/05/12 cdw
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