VC students enjoy instructor’s active learning techniques

Marty Stockbauer

As part of Victoria College’s five-year Quality Enhancement Plan, several techniques have been adopted by instructors to help students become actively engaged in the classroom. These techniques were shared with 10 VC faculty members in the first Students Engaged in Active Learning (SEAL) Academy, held in 2014.

The year-long intensive professional development program helped the faculty participants transform their courses using student-centered active learning strategies. A second SEAL Academy with 19 attendees began in January.

Among those participating in the first SEAL Academy was Marty Stockbauer, VC Computer Information Systems curriculum coordinator and professor, who said she prefers “less cookbook" and more critical thinking. To that end, she employs several classroom techniques she learned in SEAL Academy.

Stockbauer said one of these techniques involves a practice test requiring student engagement. She gives her students a review sheet and, the day before a test, places them into groups and has them play a game against other groups. During this open-book quiz contest, five points are added to the test for each student in the group that wins. The team has one minute to successfully answer the question, while the other team is also calculating the answer.

“Before I tell them if they are correct, the other team has a choice of either agreeing or ‘stealing’ if they think the other team is wrong,” she explained. “So everyone has to engage on every question.”

Her students are tasked with short writing assignments explaining concepts and may be called upon to do public speaking in class. This requires not only research for their presentations, but also draws out the smart-but-shy students to actively engage in classroom learning.

"What I have found is that when you employ the active learning techniques, in every case so far, the class just forms a group, which makes it much easier for those shy students to get up and speak,” Stockbauer said. “They have to do multiple presentations. The practice of making a presentation makes it easier.”

Students are also asked to share their unclear area, or “muddiest point,” and write it on the discussion board. They can then answer another student’s “muddiest point.”

Although final results aren’t in, Stockbauer already sees improvement in her classes.

“My absence rate was much lower than in a regular class, and the success rate was higher,” she said. “Students were absolutely engaged.”

Routing Basics student Ryan Wagner said he enjoys the hands-on activities and the game competition in class.

"Before we have a test, we do this game and split into groups to correctly answer as many questions as possible,” Wagner said. “It helps us get familiar with what’s on the test. I like doing the hands-on activities instead of just listening to a lecture where sometimes your mind might wander off. That doesn’t happen when you are doing activities. You are learning something, doing something, and it makes the time go by fast.”

Fellow student Kimberly Hanselka said she enjoys receiving information from her instructor and fellow students.

"I like being able to talk freely in class, to ask questions, and work with the other students,” Hanselka said. “I learn quite a bit from everyone else in class, not just the instructor. There are a lot of group activities and discussions. We have smaller groups and we know each other, so it’s easier to work together.”

She appreciates her instructor’s examples, real-world experiences and anecdotes “about how this material actually applies, not just reading from a textbook. She is engaging and fun.”

Published: Thursday, 02 April 2015

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