How might one convince students that active learning is going to help them learn?  What rationale can professors provide to convince students to buy into active learning strategies and to reach for deeper learning?  Recently an article was mentioned that addressed this topic well, I believe.

Gary Smith, in a 2008 article on the National Teaching & Learning Forum, presented some ideas about some questions to ask students on the first day of classes.  These questions are something along the lines as follows.

“Thinking of what you want to get out of your college education and this course, which of the following is most important to you?

1.  Acquiring information (facts, principles, concepts)

2. Learning how to use information and knowledge in new situations

3. Developing lifelong learning skills.”

The first time he tried this in a course, most students answered #3.  He asked further questions of the students which items on the list they could do outside of class, which they would need help from their peers and the instructor on and how all of the items on the list would be best learned by the students.  In the end, the students began to recognize their responsibility to the class (and to themselves).  Smith has further refined the questions to re-word #3 to be “Developing skills to continue learning after you complete your program of study.”

Reference:  Smith, G. (2008).  First-day questions for the learner-centered classroom.  National Teaching & Learning Forum, 17 (5), p. 1- 4.

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