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Active Learning Annotations: Cooperative Learning & Increasing Student Performance in STEM

Keyser, Marcia W. (2000). Active learning and cooperative learning: understanding the difference and using both styles effectively.  ScienceDirect, 17(1), 35-44. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0734331000000227

This article highlights the differences between active learning and cooperative learning and gives concrete examples of how to effectively use each.  While the examples provided focus on library instruction they can be applied to every content area.  As an introduction to active and cooperative learning the author defines active learning as anything that “involves students doing things and thinking about what they are doing” and suggests that cooperative learning is one approach to active learning. Cooperative learning is active learning, but active learning is not necessarily cooperative learning.  In the article Keyser catalogs advantages and disadvantages to incorporating both active and cooperative techniques and highlights that general active learning techniques are more flexible and require less time that cooperative learning.  Research is presented to support the use of active learning versus the traditional lecture-based instruction.  The author ends the article with several concrete examples of how to use both active learning and cooperative learning techniques and connects the decision of which to use based on the goal of the lesson.  This article would be beneficial for an instructor looking to broaden and perfect their use of active learning in the classroom. [Annotated by: Lisa Brown, GCC Math Faculty]

Freeman, S., Eddy, S., McDonough, M., Smith, M., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M.P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. PNAS, 111(33), 8410-15. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/23/8410.full

This article presents a meta-analysis of 225 studies that reported examination scores and failure rates in STEM classrooms. The authors tested the hypothesis that lecturing increases student learning by addressing two questions: (1) Does active learning boost examination scores? (2) Does it lower failure rates? Results show that student averages on examinations in active learning classrooms increased by 0.47 SDs. Additionally, classrooms utilizing only lecturing resulted in a 55% higher failure rate than active learning classrooms. The study’s authors controlled for publication bias and specific STEM discipline studied though they could not assess the intensity of the active learning component (i.e. proportion of time spent and specific active learning activity). Furthermore, the benefits attributed to active learning held regardless of class size, course type, and course level (though there were moderately higher gains realized in small classes, n < 50). Importantly, these results demonstrate that any type of active learning in STEM classrooms has the potential to significantly reduce failure rates.[Annotated by: Mike Strong, GCC Geography Faculty]

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