• Mentor/mentee facilitating team needed for next meeting (facilitating small and large-group discussion in LS classes)
  • Continue formal observations (two, official observations are due by 11/17).
  • Banned Books Read Out in Stapleton Library from 12:00–1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 27.
  • English Dept. Happy Hour (Coffee, donuts, and community...), Wednesday 10:30 AM– 11:30 AM 506 HSS
  • Next meeting

Topic: Classroom Activities (Recipes for Active Learning)

Of the possible topics explored at orientation, you expressed the strongest interest in a session on developing classroom activities. We know that only limited information can be conveyed from the instructor to the students in a given class, if only because of the limits of attention spans. Here's a brief definition of active learning

Active Learning classrooms are distinguished by three principles:
  1. Active Learning is student-driven. In the Active Learning classroom, students might be asked to lead discussion, to design their own writing assignments, to instruct their peers, and to collaborate with their instructor to determine course aims and assess course work.
  2. Active Learning teaches students how to learn in collaboration with their peers, creating a community that facilitates learning. This community, properly designed, helps students to understand the expectations and conventions of the community of scholars that they are about to join.
  3. Active Learning asks instructors to transfer to students some portion of the authority that has traditionally been theirs. Students, in turn, take increased responsibility for their writing educations. Transferring authority requires instructors to shift their focus from setting standards to diagnosing problems, from giving direction to facilitating learning, from focusing exclusively on product to supporting process.
Source: Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, Dartmouth.

Also see Brame (2016). Active learning. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.


Below are four scenarios. Please discuss in groups how you would design an activity within the given class that would achieve the learning goal through active learning. Be specific in terms of materials required, preparatory work on the part of the students (or instructor), concrete tasks, etc.

1. Teaching paragraph organization
English 101. Students have drafted, revised and been graded on their first composition. You are concerned about weak paragraph organization. Few students wrote topic sentences; often the ideas in a paragraph seemed very loosely connected; coherence is an issue.

2. Responsive reading
English 121. Students have read several short stories. Class discussion suggests students may be reading quickly, consulting Spark Notes, or focusing primarily on plot. There is little sense of careful reading that is sensitive to the way an author can enrich meaning through indirection, figurative language, and careful phrasing.

3. Critical source evaluation
Engl 202. Students have submitted a short essay; they are preparing proposals, including an annotated bibliography. You would like them to have a more confident sense of how to independently evaluate the reliability and suitability of a source (beyond just relying on its being "peer reviewed").

4. Source integration
Engl 101. Students are not conducting significant research, but they struggled with the first assignment that required them to discuss another's point of view. Sometimes the information from the source was abruptly pasted into the middle of a paragraph. Other times, it seemed to be related according to a He said, then she said ... pattern of brief exchanges. You want them to learn how to present someone's ideas in nuanced paraphrase.