Engaging students through active learning is the gold standard of teaching especially in higher education; however, it is not clear whether students appreciate being so engaged. The purpose of this paper is to recount an attempt to redesign a lecture-based course, applying research-supported active learning strategies, and to report on student perceptions of the attempt.
The author attempted to innovate a standard lecture-based introductory social science class to engage students and facilitate authentic learning. The active learning innovations were learning by doing, collaboration, reading with a method, and increased autonomy. Student perceptions were measured over two iterations of the course (each one lasting one semester) using electronically distributed surveys.
The results have shown that most students strongly agreed that the innovations facilitated their learning; however, overall, the course received a lower student evaluation than versions given in the traditional lecture-based format.
The results suggest that students appreciate active learning strategies and that such strategies do indeed promote authentic learning; nonetheless, further research needs to be done to explain the paradox of specific student appreciation of active learning strategies combined with an overall less favorable evaluation of the class rooted in such strategies as compared to evaluations of the traditional lecture-based class.
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