Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, Fifth International Conference on Higher Education Advances

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Class observations from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa highlight the need for active learning strategies to support diverse students in large classes
Jennifer Engels, Barbara Bruno, Noelle Dasalla, Daniela Böttjer-Wilson

Last modified: 25-06-2019


Compelling evidence indicates that “active learning” (learning by doing) is an effective pedagogy regardless of discipline or class size, and can be particularly effective with diverse students.  This study investigated active learning practices in 64 classes at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, a US university with a highly diverse student body, using a “Passivity Indicator” (PI: ratio of class time spent in passive activities to total class time).  For all classes, the mean PI was 43%.  Statistical analysis reveals no significant differences in the PI of classes taught in STEM vs. non-STEM disciplines, or between upper vs. lower division courses.  However, the PI in larger classes was found to be significantly greater than in small classes (64% vs. 39%, respectively; p=0.02).  Moreover, classroom activities aligned with an active learning standard in Language and Literacy Development (e.g., students answering questions) occurred twice as often in small (24%) vs. large classes (12%, with p=0.02).  Altogether, these findings indicate an opportunity for more active learning in large classes.  We present a range of research-based pedagogical strategies that can be readily implemented in large classrooms, and encourage instructors to use their implementation as research opportunities to gather data on student success.

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