(612d) Shifts In Student Attitudes to a Technology-Based Active Learning Pedagogy

Authors: 
Koretsky, M. D., Oregon State University
Brooks, B. J., Oregon State University


Many
engineering classes emphasize student problem-solving skills almost to the
exclusion of the understanding of underlying concepts. However, with this type
of instruction, students are better rewarded by rote learning than by
conceptual understanding. It has also been shown that the lack of conceptual
understanding severely restricts the students' ability to solve a new problem
since they do not have the functional understanding to use their knowledge in
new situations. Alternatively, classes that use active learning pedagogies have
been shown to allow students to integrate new concepts with their prior
knowledge and develop richer conceptual understanding.

Active learning pedagogies have
become enabled by technology-based classroom tools. For example, the use of personal
response systems (clickers) has increased substantially. Clicker technologies
enable students to provide instantaneous feedback to instructor questions via a
handheld device. Each clicker unit has a unique signal so that the answer from
each individual student can be identified and recorded. However, most clickers
are limited to multiple choice questions.

This study uses an alternative,
technology-based tool, the Web-based Interactive Science and Engineering (WISE)
Learning Tool. Its use of computer technology permits a significantly wider
range of learning activities than clickers allow. Specific to this study is the
ability to ask students to provide short-answer, written explanations following
multiple choice questions. Pedagogically, the short answers provide students
opportunities for metacognition through reflection.

Changes
in student perceptions to this novel technology-based active learning pedagogy
were studied over the first five years it was used in a chemical engineering
thermodynamics course. Students tended to view active learning more favorably
over time, particularly in regards to statements which required them to be
interpretive of their own learning. They also perceived that being required to
write explanations prompted them to think more deeply about multiple choice
conceptual questions.

Implications
for adopting active learning techniques are discussed.