In many ways, our teaching methods still emulate the model depicted in the picture above: instructors lecture, “pouring” knowledge into groups of passive students. A growing body of evidence, however, suggests that “active learning” techniques – where students actively engage material – are a more effective teaching strategy.
In my position as an Active Learning Initiative (ALI) postdoc at Cornell University, I design active learning exercises for large lower-level sociology courses and collect data on their effectiveness. The goal is to create a corpus of activities for instructors to use in the classroom as well as to systematically study differences in student outcomes between traditional and active learning environments. This process includes creating active learning interventions to be used in 200-300 person lecture courses, designing/fielding assessments to measure educational gains, and mentoring TAs in designing active learning materials for 15-30 person discussion sections.
Based on this work, my co-authors and I are working on SoTL projects sharing our unique method for training TA's for teaching, and also exploring ideas to measure the impact of active learning on student evaluations in the social sciences.