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Active-Learning Methods to Improve Student Performance and Scientific Interest in a Large Introductory Course
Teaching methods that are often recommended to improve the learning environment in college science courses include cooperative learning, adding inquiry-based activities to traditional lectures, and engaging students in projects or investigations. Two questions often surround these efforts: 1) can these methods be used in large classes; and 2) how do we know that they are increasing student learning? This study, from the University of Massachusetts, describes how education researchers have transformed the environment of a large-enrollment oceanography course (600 students) by modifying lectures to include cooperative learning via interactive in-class exercises and directed discussion. Assessments were redesigned as "two-stage" exams with a significant collaborative component. Results of student surveys, course evaluations, and exam performance demonstrate that learning of the subject under these conditions has improved. Student achievement shows measurable and statistically significant increases in information recall, analytical skills, and quantitative reasoning. There is evidence from both student surveys and student interview comments that for the majority of students, the course increased their interest in science -- a difficult effect to achieve with this population.
Intended for grade levels:
  • Graduate / Professional
Type of resource:
  • For the classroom:
    • Guide for instructor
  • Text:
    • Journal article
Subject:
  • Educational theory and practice
  • Environmental science
  • Ocean Sciences:
    • Physical oceanography
Technical requirements:
Adobe Acrobat reader
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
We encourage the reuse and dissemination of the material on this site for educational, noncommercial purposes as long as attribution is retained.
DLESE Catalog ID: EVAL-TLKT-000-000-000-078
Related resources:
This resource is referenced by
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Publisher: National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)
Journal of Geoscience Education (JGE)
http://www.nagt.org/nagt/jge/index.html

Author: Richard F. Yuretich
University of Massachusetts, Department of Geosciences

Author: Samia A. Khan
University of Massachusetts, School of Education

Author: R. Mark Leckie
University of Massachusetts, Department of Geosciences