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Active learning, which many consider a radical change from traditional teaching methods, has received considerable attention over the past several years. For engineering education, however, there remains some skepticism as to the need for these methods since students are already “active” through homework assignments and laboratories. In addition, many engineering faculty lack the enthusiasm to comb the educational literature for answers and as a result do not always understand how the common forms of active learning differ from each other. There are also drawbacks for engineering faculty expecting to select a few articles to see the effectiveness of active learning strategies. It is imperative that readers clarify what is being studied and how the authors measure and interpret what “works.” However, as a result of the wide range of methods that fall under the name of active learning it might be difficult to identify the subject of the study. Nonetheless, this process can be simplified by focusing on core elements of common active learning methods. Assessing “what works” requires looking at a broad range of learning outcomes, interpreting data carefully, quantifying the magnitude of any reported improvement and having some idea of what constitutes a “significant” improvement [1]. Assessing for significance will always be a matter of interpretation, although it is helpful to look at both statistical measures such as absolute values and effect sizes for reported learning gains. Being aware of the practical limitations of educational studies will seek to caution educators hoping to adopt an instructional practice with the expectation of seeing results similar to those reported in the literature. Educational studies tell us what worked, on average, for the populations examined and learning theories suggest why this might be so [1]. Therefore the value of the results presented in literature is that they provide information to help teachers identify the variables involved in educational studies. The more extensive the data supporting an intervention, the more a teacher’s students resemble the test population and the better the odds are that the method will work for a given instructor


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