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Assessing "Low-Intensity" Active Learning
Unformatted Document Text:  The point of this experiment is to determine whether active learning differs from more traditional lecture-style learning in a single-class setting. Two classes of international relations were taught the same material and did the same reading in preparation for class. The experimental group was given an introductory lecture on the concepts of functionalism, summarizing the key concept from the reading. They were then broken into small groups (5-6) and given the task of coming up with an effective game, simulation, role playing exercise or other active learning technique that next semester’s class would participate in to teach the concept of functionalism with the European Union as an example. The class was exposed to each of these types of teaching techniques prior to this exercise. The control group was given the same introductory lecture and then given a longer lecture on the historical development of the European Union. However, the control group was not forced to passively listen to a prepared lecture, but encouraged to ask questions and respond to the material. The teaching assistant in class recorded five questions from different students, which is typical of that semester. When teaching the control group, the professor took care to introduce the same material as would be covered by the experimental group in the European Union activity. This was done in order to insure that both experimental and control groups received the same information via different teaching and learning techniques. With each group I employed a pre-test/post-test experimental design to determine the impact of the pedagogical technique on student learning. In the pre-test, students were given a short multiple choice and short answer quiz designed to see how well they understood the nature and scope of the issue. The multiple choice questions were aimed more at factual learning that could be easily tested while the short answer question was aimed at synthesizing the material in terms of the larger framework of the course (Krain and Lantis, 2006). To assure that the short answer questions were graded evenly, the quizzes from the two classes were collated and then graded. The assumption is that lecture-style presentations may do better at getting the facts disseminated, but not encourage critical thinking and synthesis. Pre-tests were conducted at the beginning of class, after students had read the required reading, but before the material was presented. This controlled for the effects of learning by reading relevant materials on the topic. In the post-test, students received a quiz containing the same questions from the pre-test, with the order of the possible answers altered, but also included a more in-depth short essay that asked the students to integrate the material from previous classes. The point of including this question was to see if different types of learning occurred in the two classes. Post-tests were administered at the start of the next class session with the same questions in different order and with the order of the multiple choice answers mixed up. Changes in student performance on the quiz act as a more objective assessment of knowledge acquisition as a result of their experience learning the material. Both pre- and post-test also contained several questions asking students to indicate their interest level in the topic (both pre- & post- test) and to assess their interest in the particular class (just post-test, see Appendix 1). Changes in student answers on this self-evaluation provide additional assessment of the pedagogical technique’s effectiveness at motivating, involving or interesting students. Several additional post-tests were given in the form of questions on the subsequent unit exam, one a week later, and on the final, seven weeks later. Hypotheses: • H1 – Students in the control group will have a greater gain in the multiple choice scores than the control group from one test to the other. 4

Authors: Van Inwegen, Patrick.
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background image
The point of this experiment is to determine whether active learning differs from more
traditional lecture-style learning in a single-class setting. Two classes of international relations
were taught the same material and did the same reading in preparation for class. The
experimental group was given an introductory lecture on the concepts of functionalism,
summarizing the key concept from the reading. They were then broken into small groups (5-6)
and given the task of coming up with an effective game, simulation, role playing exercise or
other active learning technique that next semester’s class would participate in to teach the
concept of functionalism with the European Union as an example. The class was exposed to
each of these types of teaching techniques prior to this exercise. The control group was given the
same introductory lecture and then given a longer lecture on the historical development of the
European Union. However, the control group was not forced to passively listen to a prepared
lecture, but encouraged to ask questions and respond to the material. The teaching assistant in
class recorded five questions from different students, which is typical of that semester. When
teaching the control group, the professor took care to introduce the same material as would be
covered by the experimental group in the European Union activity. This was done in order to
insure that both experimental and control groups received the same information via different
teaching and learning techniques.
With each group I employed a pre-test/post-test experimental design to determine the
impact of the pedagogical technique on student learning. In the pre-test, students were given a
short multiple choice and short answer quiz designed to see how well they understood the nature
and scope of the issue. The multiple choice questions were aimed more at factual learning that
could be easily tested while the short answer question was aimed at synthesizing the material in
terms of the larger framework of the course (Krain and Lantis, 2006). To assure that the short
answer questions were graded evenly, the quizzes from the two classes were collated and then
graded. The assumption is that lecture-style presentations may do better at getting the facts
disseminated, but not encourage critical thinking and synthesis. Pre-tests were conducted at the
beginning of class, after students had read the required reading, but before the material was
presented. This controlled for the effects of learning by reading relevant materials on the topic.
In the post-test, students received a quiz containing the same questions from the pre-test,
with the order of the possible answers altered, but also included a more in-depth short essay that
asked the students to integrate the material from previous classes. The point of including this
question was to see if different types of learning occurred in the two classes. Post-tests were
administered at the start of the next class session with the same questions in different order and
with the order of the multiple choice answers mixed up. Changes in student performance on the
quiz act as a more objective assessment of knowledge acquisition as a result of their experience
learning the material.
Both pre- and post-test also contained several questions asking students to indicate their
interest level in the topic (both pre- & post- test) and to assess their interest in the particular class
(just post-test, see Appendix 1). Changes in student answers on this self-evaluation provide
additional assessment of the pedagogical technique’s effectiveness at motivating, involving or
interesting students.
Several additional post-tests were given in the form of questions on the subsequent unit
exam, one a week later, and on the final, seven weeks later.
Hypotheses:
H1 – Students in the control group will have a greater gain in the multiple choice scores
than the control group from one test to the other.
4


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