I recently had the pleasure of running 2 workshops at California State University in Los Angeles (CSULA) as part of the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning (CETL) STEM Summer Institute on Active Learning in the STEM classroom. I think this slide from the beginning of my first workshop sums up what the workshops are about:
Workshop 1: How (you can help) People Learn (using peer instruction)
Here’s the How People Learn matrix (pdf) of key findings, implications for teaching and designing classroom environments. For a group activity, I make 9 index cards of the entries in this matrix (I leave out the last Designing finding about the context in which learning takes place.) Each group of 3-4 participants has to sort the 9 cards into 3 groups of 3, matching the implications and classroom environment to each key finding.
Workshop 2: Writing good peer instruction questions
I’m excited to try out this peer instruction question worksheet (PDF) written with my colleague, Beth Simon. We want instructors to justify each choice given in the question. Not merely if it’s correct or not, though. We want instructors to anticipate what students will say to explain why the choice is correct or incorrect. The choices you give in a peer instruction question direct the conversation. We think you want to do that, to build their pre-existing understandings, to activate their misconceptions and give them the opportunity to discuss the concept like an expert does. Sometimes, I believe, students don’t have the expertise to spontaneously launch into the right kind of conversation. You might be direct them poorly, especially the first time you use the question, so it’s critical to eavesdrop on their discussions, record how they voted in the 1st (solo) and 2nd (group) votes and, as necessary, revise the choices (maybe even the question) for next year.