Journal Club Discussion: Identifying Key Features of Effective Active Learning: The Effects of Writing and Peer Discussion

Journal Club Discussion: Identifying Key Features of Effective Active Learning: The Effects of Writing and Peer Discussion  

  By: Alejandra Arreola Triana on March 15, 2019, 7:30 p.m.

Hello Everyone, and welcome to our first discussion for the Education & Science Communication Journal Club. 

This fortnight, we will discuss this paper: Identifying Key Features of Effective Active Learning: The Effects of Writing and Peer Discussion, by Linton et al., published in CBE Life Sciences Education. You can find the paper in PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152208/. The paper is openly accessible, so you shouldn't have any problems, but just in case, download the "unpaywall" plugin to Chrome or Firefox, so you can find open versions of many papers. 

 

Why did I choose this paper?

I teach science writing at the College of Biological Sciences, UANL, in Mexico, and I am very interested in implementing active learning techniques in my teaching practice. I think this paper is very relevant to my interests, besides providing a very detailed methodology, which could be useful if I ever want to evaluate the effectiveness of these techniques. 

The introduction is a good review of the literature about active learning, and I think the authors did a good job at defining the concepts. I also think the methodology is clear and well constructed, and the reasoning behind their decisions is stated clearly. 

The authors conclude that writing and discussions are an important component of active learning activities, and that it is worth spending the class time in individual writing activities, as it improves learning. They point out that all three instructors kept the same pace and covered the material. One of the main complaints I have heard regarding the use of active learning activities in the classroom is that the are time consuming, and reduce lecture time--these authors found that it is not necessarily the case. 

I noticed the different results according to instructors, and the authors acknowledge that they should look into this variable. The authors chose teachers with different levels of experience using active learning techniques. In my experience, teacher attitude may also influence student learning (must look for a paper on that!), so I wish they included a professor with many years of teaching experience, but who has never before used active learning. 

Another thing I liked about this paper, is that the activities described are easy to implement in many different courses, and I will be sharing this information with my colleagues. 

 

What do you think about this paper?

How do you think this paper will inform or change your teaching practice?

I look forward to learning with you!

 

(If you would like to share a paper and discuss it, please let me know!)

Alex Arreola | México

AuthorAID Community Moderator


 Last edited by: Andy Nobes on March 18, 2019, 12:48 p.m., edited 2 times in total.

Re: Journal Club Discussion: Identifying Key Features of Effective Active Learning: The Effects of Writing and Peer Discussion  

  By: Lucian Ngeze on March 17, 2019, 6:42 p.m.

Thank you Triana for choosing this paper for our first discussion.

I have taken time to go through the paper “ Identifying Key Features of Effective Active Learning: "The Effects of Writing and Peer Discussion” and have seen how it has been applied in the context of a large introductory class of Biology".

Experimental design was all ok with all the parameters taken care of except the case of the differences in experiences in using active learning of the teachers involved in the study.

However, there are a couple of observations I have thought of (which I could have not understood well).

 

  1. Unlike collaborative activities, cooperative activities always have one big task that is split into several parts, where each of the participating students works on one part leading to some artifact generation to reach a common goal. This brings a sense of division of labour among students. In this paper, I could not clearly see how the work from individual students contributed to a common goal.

  2. Even though the paper concludes that individual writing should be included as part of the cooperative group-based active learning activities, it all depends on what activities are being done individually and how they contribute to achieving the common goal stated at the beginning of the course.

  3. In active learning, students complete meaningful activities which make them engaged with the content. Writing helps in reflecting on what they have been learning.


Building on Alejandra Arreola Triana about challenges of using active learning in classroom, in some cases, classrooms implementing active learning strategies, especially those involving discussion phases generate large volumes of noise. This noise may be good or bad, depending on what students are discussing on.

A question to go with:

What do you understand by cooperative group-based activities? How are these activities completed?

Re: Journal Club Discussion: Identifying Key Features of Effective Active Learning: The Effects of Writing and Peer Discussion  

  By: Alejandra Arreola Triana on March 19, 2019, 6:48 p.m.

Hi Lucian, and thank you for you analysis. 

I was not aware that cooperative and collaborative learning were different things! The researchers do not provide a definition, but based on what they described in the methods, perhaps they mean collaborative learning?

Until you made me aware of this difference, I used cooperative and collaborative interchangeably, as activities that involve social constructivism. I found this paper that has definitions: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1540-4781.1997.tb05510.x

Thank you :)

 

A

Alex Arreola | México

AuthorAID Community Moderator


 Last edited by: Alejandra Arreola Triana on March 19, 2019, 6:50 p.m., edited 1 time in total.