Faculty Spotlights: Increasing Active Learning by Redesigning the “Chemistry 230”, “Honors 241”, and “History 260” Courses

Faculty members from a variety of disciplines redesigned their courses to increase active learning by adding problem-solving activities, collaborative writing projects, and team projects focused on digital research skills.
by Carla Stellrecht, Instructional Learning Consultant Senior

Each of the instructors profiled in these spotlights approached the redesign of their course differently due to their varying disciplines, course structures, and teaching backgrounds. However, a common thread was to reexamine the detailed course activities in order to free up time for students to engage with the content and each other through problem-solving activities, collaborative writing projects, and assignments focused on digital scholarship. Additionally, each instructor worked with specialists from a variety of organizations to leverage their expertise in the redesign process.

Professor George Hoffmann was new to teaching a course with a large enrollment as well as to the enhanced format of the latest Team-Based Learning (TBL) classroom, 1060 Biological Science Building (BSB). TBL classrooms have unique features, potentially including movable furniture, writing surfaces, and student technology. These spaces support a variety of active instructional strategies that require higher-order thinking skills, such as problem-solving, analysis, and the construction of knowledge. He collaborated with representatives from LSA Technology Services, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT), and the Language Resource Center (LRC) as he designed and implemented his course in fall 2018, “Honors 241: What Westworld Teaches us about Being Human”. Students were organized into teams at the start of the semester to utilize the furniture layout of tables of six and monitors at each table allowing students to connect to a device. The course utilizes technology tools like Perusall, a social annotation tool, to help students engage more deeply with course readings and their teammates. Additionally, student teams completed a number of learning activities throughout the semester, including designing a web-based portfolio of their written work.

Dr. Amy Gottfried has taught “Chemistry 230” for many years but recently began teaching it in the same Team-Based Learning classroom, 1060 BSB. Although she had always used active learning strategies, the new space enabled her to incorporate them more deeply into her course. Dr. Gottfried “flipped” her lectures by creating pre-class activities—video clips on the basic content, Canvas quizzes to check understanding, and basic practice problems for concept application. Class time is now used for working on more complex problems with teammates as a way to build problem-solving strategies.

As a new member of the LSA History department in the Fall of 2018, Professor Jason Young was assigned to teach “History 260”, a course with a traditional structure of lectures and recitation sessions. His goals were to show students what historians do and help them see that the skills they master in a history course are easily transferable to other aspects of professional life. These skills include working with large amounts of data, critiquing that information, and “speaking back to it”. To meet these objectives, he partnered with several campus organizations, including LSA Technology Services, CRLT, and the Library, in the design and implementation of a series of digital scholarship or research projects. Additionally, Professor Young carved out a unique role for his teaching assistants as the primary facilitators of the projects.

Explore additional information and resources, including clips of recorded interviews and related materials, in these Instructor Spotlights. 

If you are interested in integrating innovative pedagogical techniques like active learning and flipped classrooms, implementing new learning technology to meet your course learning goals, or learning how to take advantage of LSA classroom spaces, contact our Learning and Teaching Technology Consultants by emailing LSATechnologyServices@umich.edu.

Release Date: 01/08/2020
Category: Innovate Newsletter
Tags: Technology Services; Language Resource Center