My research concentrates on developing and evaluating approaches to improve instruction in large classes. In the past decade, our understanding of how students learn and of practices that can facilitate this process has grown rapidly. However, significant work still needs to be done translating these findings into approaches that can be readily adapted in the classroom, in particular in large enrollment courses. Towards this end, my work currently examines three issues.
Improving assessment. Research has shown that using a variety of assessments helps to inform instructional practices and to improve student learning. However, large enrollment courses often rely primarily on multiple-choice exams because of logistical and resource issues. I am investigating how to effectively incorporate additional assessment types into large classes.
Active classrooms. Students learn concepts and develop skills best when they actively apply and practice them. However, in most large science classes, students passively listen to lecture and often delay working with the topics being taught until shortly before an exam. I am investigating ways to adapt new (technology) and old (collaborative learning) approaches to encourage students to actively practice skills and apply concepts on a regular basis in and out of class in large enrollment courses.
Peer Mentoring. To learn concepts and skills being taught in a class effectively, students need frequent, timely, and personalized feedback on their efforts. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for an instructor to provide this type of feedback in a large enrollment course. I am investigating ways to encourage students to take advantage of another underutilized, and often unappreciated, source of feedback, other students. In particular, cooperative learning groups and facilitated study-sessions led by advanced undergraduates are being adapted for use in large classes.