Stevens, R. (2015). Role-play and student engagement: Reflections from the classroom. Teaching in Higher Education, 20(5), 481-492. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2015.1020778.

This article researched student response to an active learning role playing game, “Oral History Speed Dating,” designed both to engage students in the teaching of the lesson and to help them develop critical thinking skills. While the author’s colleagues gave very positive feedback on this specific activity, the author wanted to measure student response, particularly because previous research on student-centered learning has been analyzed with a teacher-centered eye. Through surveying 144 participants over 9 activity sessions, the author measured the effectiveness of the activity’s learning outcomes. Three open-ended and three closed questions were used to quantify student motivation and development of critical thinking skills, and a single reflective question provided personal accounts of student response, from which the author quantified various repeated words and themes. He found that for a majority of the students the goals of active learning were met, but for a minority, the activity was counterproductive, mostly due to their failure to prepare adequately for the activity. Looking at the experience of that minority proved especially noteworthy and the author explained that the negative reaction of the few can be applied to the design and learning outcomes of future active learning exercises.

The oral history speeding dating activity was used in a world history class in a unit on the partition of India after British colonial rule. Students were assigned to read primary documents from varying eyewitness perspectives in preparation for the ‘characters’ they would play in the speed dating game. During the roleplaying game, every student rotated through the classroom and spent two minutes presenting the historical event from their character’s point of view. This design allowed every student to interact with one another. Additionally, the activity served as a memorable example that “history is [not] a fixed story that can be read in an authoritative textbook,” but that it is a personal experience, felt and perceived differently, depending upon one’s status and point of view. Upon compiling the survey results, the author found that only 7% of the students disagreed or strongly disagreed that they felt more informed after the activity. The author found most intriguing this minority of students who did not respond favorably to the activity. He raises the point that student-centered teaching must focus on all students, and that careful design of active learning activities is essential in order to make them effective for the entire class. [Annotated by: Karen Reed, GCC Library Faculty]

Matherly, M., & Burney, L. L. (2013). Active learning activities to revitalize managerial accounting principles. Issues in Accounting Education, 28(3), 653-680. doi:10.2308/iace-50465

The authors presented an active learning activity especially designed for managerial accounting students.  The activity focused on introducing managerial accounting students to the topic when students have no work background.  Managerial accounting students often do not have a frame of reference when discussing this topic because of their lack of work experience.  The authors believe this active learning activity can substitute for their limited relevant work experience. The activity exposes students to basic managerial terminology through a paper hat production simulation.  The activity consists of two rounds. The first round simulates push manufacturing in which a manufacturer makes product for stock without any specific orders to be filled by the product.  Two students are production workers.  One student is quality control.  The instructor is the supervisor.  The round intentionally builds a bottleneck by assigning more work to the second production worker.  Once the simulation is under way, the instructor asks the class to identify examples of various costs provided in a handout and discussed previously in class.  Added complications are introduced.  A stapler runs out of staples to mimic a machine breakdown and torn newspaper emphasizes the importance of production quality.  The students should recognize bottlenecks and other quality issues during the first round of production.  In round two, the class is invited to make suggestions on how to alleviate bottlenecks and improve quality.  The production process begins again and the instructor highlights how much smoother the production process has become.  Allowing the students to make corrections to the production process allows them to exercise their critical-thinking skills while learning the terminology and concepts of a production facility. After administering the active learning activities, the authors surveyed the students and determined that students perceived the activities to have increased their content knowledge of the topics and increased their attitude and interest in the class.  The survey results also indicated that students perceived the instructor had a genuine concern for quality teaching.  This article would be useful in classrooms in which students do not have work experience in environments that process goods or services. [Annotated by: Bill Wyngaard, GCC Business Faculty]

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