CRLT Blog

Collage of pictures showing students working in groups, raising their hands, and writing on flipchart paperFaculty and GSIs from across campus are invited to explore our newest resource dedicated to active learning. At CRLT, we work every day with instructors who are committed to engaging their students actively both inside and outside the classroom. As Michael Prince explains, “Active learning is generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing.” (Prince, 2004). Research from Prince as well as a number of other sources (Freeman, 2014; Hake, 1998; Ruiz-Primo et al., 2011) indicates that having students actively engaged increases learning outcomes across disciplines (Ambrose, 2010; Bonwell & Eison, 1991). This new resource showcases the diversity of active learning techniques used by instructors at U-M, from the humanities and arts to STEM, from small seminars to large lectures, to demonstrate not just what active learning is, but how it works in classrooms right here on campus.

The website includes:

  • Reflecting on Your Practice: We designed this inventory to help you identify areas in which active learning could be used in your classroom and to suggest opportunities to build on strategies that you already use.
  • Implementing Active Learning: Integrating active learning can be beneficial to student learning, but it does come with some challenges. We share tips and techniques for integrating active learning strategies while avoiding common pitfalls.
  • U-M Faculty Examples: In these brief case studies, U-M instructors share how they use active learning in specific courses, as well as how they have refined their approach over time. From large Physics lectures to small Screenwriting seminars, these examples span the range of complexity and diversity of approaches to engaging students.
  • Resources: This section includes discipline specific resources and the research that speaks to the efficacy of active learning. 
  • Share your Example: Are you using active learning in your classroom? We would love for you to share your examples, as we hope to grow this resource to include even more voices in the conversation.

In recent years, several colleges and universities have begun to include students more actively in faculty professional development opportunities, often engaging students to consult with faculty about both course planning and implementation. In a recent book on Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching, Alison Cook-Sather, Catherine Bovill, and Peter Felten delineate a range of positive outcomes of such student-faculty partnerships to improve teaching and learning.  As these authors argue, “Students have insights into teaching and learning that can make [instructors’] practice more engaging, effective, and rigorous” (2014).

image of campus with many different students walking We’d add that student insights can likewise contribute to teaching practices that are more inclusive and equitable. Drawing upon their experience learning from a range of instructors and alongside a range of peers, student consultants can offer perspectives on several key inclusive teaching principles, including:  how effectively course materials convey an instructor’s values related to equity and inclusion; how transparent the materials are about student learning objectives and evaluation criteria; and how they support a sense of social belonging for a broad range of students, especially those that too-often are not represented in or acknowledged by curricula and course materials in a wide range of disciplines.

This year, as part of our 2018 Inclusive Teaching @ Michigan series (April 30 - May 4), CRLT will pilot two programs that include undergraduate student consultants as key partners for faculty who wish to think about course design in collaboration with students. These include:

The Rackham School of Graduate Studies and the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) are excited to invite applications for the "Preparing Future Faculty" (PFF) seminar. PFF is a nationally-recognized program designed to help prepare doctoral candidates across disciplines for the academic job search and success in their subsequent faculty positions.

Read below for reflections from past PFF participant and current PFF program assistant, public policy and sociology doctoral candidate Kennedy A. Turner. 

For more information about the program and application process, click here: http://crlt.umich.edu/programs/pffseminar. Applications are due March 1.

Photo of Kennedy TurnerThe moment I began to seriously consider pursuing a Ph.D. occurred when I was an undergraduate, sitting in a lecture for Introduction to Sociology. My mind was blown as my professor described the social structures that had previously been invisible to me. Through a single lecture, he was able to seamlessly challenge my existing assumptions about our social world. As I listened to his words, I was enthralled by the power and possibility of the university classroom. After also learning about the research side of faculty life, I decided that pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Sociology was the right path for me.

I know that many of my peers have similar origin stories, of an engaging professor who inspired them to pursue academia in the first place. Yet, the goal of becoming an engaging professor ourselves can easily get lost under the weight of courses, research obligations, and that whole “writing a dissertation” thing. Like research, writing, and other aspects of the job, teaching is a skill that can be learned and cultivated if taken seriously.

What do you know about the students in your classroom? How many of them are first generation? Who among them has served in the military? Which ones are in recovery for substance use? Who has children at home that they are responsible for? Are there other dimensions of your students' experiences that might fall outside of 'traditional' expectations for U-M students?

According to a recent focus group study conducted by U-M’s Center for the Education of Women, 92% of student respondents who identify as “nontraditional” identified multiple markers of nontraditional status and 38% percent of respondents described their nontraditional status as a combination of five or more identities or life experiences. While some of these statuses were linked to visible identity categories, many of them were based on experiences that are not readily legible (e.g., being a veteran or being a commuter). However, these nontraditional experiences play a key role in how students experience the university, both inside and beyond the classroom. So how can instructors better understand these experiences to leverage diversity in the classroom and create inclusive learning environments?