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What is Active Learning?

Active learning can be defined to include any instructional strategies that engage students in the
learning process through doing - writing, speaking, discussing, inquiring, manipulating materials,
making observations, gathering and analysing data, synthesizing, or evaluating course-related
materials. Active learning requires students to think about course content, both in itself and in
relation to larger concerns about knowledge, social concerns, or personal existence.

Why Use Active Learning Strategies?

Every educational encounter is guided by a variety of aims. Most of the time, the explicit
aim is to produce student learning of specified course content. In actual practice,
college teachers are also guided by several additional latent ends - to get students to:
(a) approach what they are learning in a deeper, more reflective and conceptual
manner, (b) clarify their ideas through writing and discussion, (c) become more
autonomous or self-regulated learners, (d) learn habits of cooperation and mutual aid,

Many college teachers have tacit ideas about how to achieve these aims, ideas which
influence their moment-by-moment decisions in their classrooms. But few explicate or
systematize these ideas about teaching. By presenting explicit active learning strategies
for consideration and application, we can encourage college teachers to think about and
improve their own teaching so that more of these latent aims can be achieved.

Perhaps the primary purpose of active learning strategies is to get students to think.

Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature
as to demand thinking; learning naturally results. John Dewey

Active learning strategies (ALS) ask students to do and to think - by themselves, or in pairs or
small groups. Often the students are initially invited to puzzle individually over some carefully
selected question or challenge. Later they may also be invited to pair up to share their thoughts.
Or they may be asked initially to work out their thoughts in pairs or small groups. Students may
in addition be asked to share their individual or group thoughts with the entire class. Sometimes
these exchanges are a prelude to group discussion or reflective writing. Regardless of the
particular strategy, active learning is i the first instance all about thinking.
Active Learning and Lecturing
College teachers are often presented with a false choice about active learning: lecture OR use
active learning strategies; be EITHER a sage on the stage OR a guide on the side.

In fact, teachers adopting active learning strategies will generally continue to deliver some
lectures - or at least mini-lectures. There is a key role for presenting academic material in an
orderly manner. When a course begins, teachers have to explain the subject and the topics
covered. At the end, teachers have to summarize and tie up loose ends. Throughout, basic
concepts and processes have to be explained.

Decades of research, however, have shown conclusively that transmitting knowledge through
the standard 50 minute lecture is ineffective by itself, even if used merely for short term
memorization of course materials and problem-solving procedural proficiency.

Adding active learning strategies to lectures make them much more effective. When used to
generate student thinking before or after lecture segments, students focus more sharply and
remember more - and their problem-solving proficiency rises.

However, learning at the college level is a lot more than short-term memorization and
procedural proficiency.

What is it to Learn at the College Level?

Learning in all college disciplines and fields is learning to think. Students have to think not only
procedurally - as in solving structured textbook problems - but also conceptually and practically
in less structured problem situations - as real scientists, historians, literary critics,
mathematicians, etc., think in doing science, history, criticism, mathematics. And they also have
to think about how to use the knowledge and understandings embedded in these fields of study
in many other contexts - in invention, technology, journalism, commerce, teaching and other
fields of public life.

Conceptual Thinking: College students have to learn how to think conceptually - to make
abstractions and generalizations so they can build models, generate solutions to unexpected
problems, connect materials across topics and courses and even across different disciplines
and practical fields, and to create new problems and new methods and even new fields of

Thinking like a Member of a Community of Practice: Thinking like a scientist, historian, critic,
etc., means thinking like a member of the relevant community. These disciplines and fields are
social practices, conducted in communities with their own norms, paradigms, and styles; their
own conferences and journals and professional organizations with their own codes of ethics and
community standards. Learning to think like a scientist, for example, means gaining tacit know-
how for engaging in the scientific communitys give and take - forming hypotheses, making
arguments and critiques - of the right sort. This kind of practical thinking - effective thinking
within a community of practice - cannot develop merely from an accumulation of textbook
knowledge. It depends on guided practice plus feedback, which is one hallmark of active
learning strategies.

Thinking Like an Citizen-Expert: Members of the educated population bear a special

responsibility to society. In our advanced technological civilization, many if not most pressing
problems are all wrapped up with science and other forms of advanced knowledge, and those
with a university degree have to bring their understandings to bear in shaping public opinion and
public policy.

A paradigm example is the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists founded by Albert

Einstein and Le Szilrd in 1946. ECAS aimed to warn the public of the dangers of nuclear
weapons, to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and more generally to promote world
peace so that occasions for nuclear war would not arise. When participating in such groups,
university graduates have to be able to think like effective citizens. Possessing the relevant
knowledge base, however necessary, is not sufficient.

College teachers often think, at least subconsciously, that learning from lectures for knowledge
transmission plus solving textbook problems will indirectly lead to improvements in these other
forms of thinking. Research, however, shows this hope to be ill-founded. If students are to learn
conceptual, creative, practical, and civic forms of thinking, they must have specific opportunities
for such thinking in college courses, and course evaluation procedures should endeavor to
measure effectiveness in such types of thinking.


A Toolbox of Action Learning Strategies 1

I. Simple Strategies for Students Working Alone in

the Classroom
A problem with the lecture method is that students can withdraw attention and turn to other
activities meeting more immediate needs. Research shows that after 15 minutes, most students

In this section I have drawn extensively from Faust, J. L., & Paulson, D. R. (1998). Active learning in the
college classroom. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 9 (2), 3-24, as well as a more recent catalog
of strategies: Jim Eison, Using Active Learning Instructional Strategies to Create Excitement and
Enhance Learning, online at
are no longer attending to lectures in a focused manner. Many teachers are dismayed, when
looking out at their lecture halls, to see students sending text messages on their smartphones -
or sleeping. In recent research on massive online courses, it has been shown that 6 minutes is
the ideal time for a given lecture segment. Many active learning strategies break up lessons into
mini-lecture segments and thinking segments. This offers variety in experience that can keep
attention focused on learning.

1. The One Minute Paper

The Minute Paper is a very commonly used classroom assessment technique. It really does
take about a minute and, while usually used at the end of class, it can be used at the end of any
topic discussion. Its major advantage is that it provides rapid feedback on whether the
professor's main idea and what the students perceived as the main idea are the same.
Additionally, by asking students to add a question at the end,this assessment becomes an
integrative task. Students must first organize their thinking to rank the major points and then
decide upon a significant question. Sometimes, instead of asking for the main point, a professor
may wish to probe for the most disturbing or most surprising item. It is thus a very adaptable
tool. Adapted from T.A. Angelo and K. P. Cross, 1993. Classroom Assessment Techniques,
2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. p.148-53.

Sample Form: The Minute Paper (To be adapted and modified for particular lessons)

In concise, well-planned sentences, please answer the three questions below:

1. What are the two [three, four, five] most significant [central, useful, meaningful,
surprising, disturbing] things you have learned during this session?

2. What question(s) remain uppermost in your mind?


3. Is there anything you did not understand?


2. One Minute Clarification or Augmentation Request

In this variation the Instructor asks students only for their needs to clarify or augment a point in
the lecture. If the Instructor leaves five minutes at the end of class for this one minute paper,
students can spend a minute writing, and the Instructor can quickly scan some of the papers
and address some of the needs. This strategy invites students to think about what they are
learning, to monitor their own understanding, and to think beyond the concrete material in the
lesson to broader connections. If students have not understood some points in the lecture, they
can have them clarified before leaving the classroom or lecture hall.

3. One Minute Personal Affective Paper

In this variation, the Instructor asks students to express their personal responses to the material.
This is particularly good where the material raises emotional or value-laden responses. For
example, after a lesson on the use of hydropower or nuclear power, covering some of the
benefits and costs, the instructor may ask students to write a one minute paper expressing their
view on hydro or nuclear power. The strategy is also useful in capturing excitement about - or
indifference to - particular topics: information of potential value for Instructors.

4. One Minute Demonstration Response Paper

Instructors often do in-class demonstrations, believing that students, upon seeing the processes
and results directly, will form a clearer conceptual understanding. However, the improvement in
conceptual understanding has been shown to be marginal, while the demonstration often
introduces new conceptual misunderstandings. What is needed is a reflection stage after the
demonstration, followed by further instructor clarification if needed. The one minute post-
demonstration paper may have prompts like I expected . and I was surprised by It might
even be better to bracket the demonstration with a one minute paper after explaining the
demonstration set up but before the demonstration, asking students what they expect and why,
followed by the one-minute post-demonstration paper asking students to state whether their
expectations were confirmed or negated.

5. Two Minute Reading Review Quiz

Many Instructors are either uncertain whether students have read assigned readings, or are
frustrated by students who come to class unprepared. This places a greater burden on the
Instructor to cover the material which students should already have learned. By asking the
same kinds of questions again and again at the beginning of each class about the assigned
material, Instructors can increase student preparation and also guide them on what to be
focusing on in their reading. The review quiz can be conducted using finger signals, clickers, or
other forms of student response (see specific student response strategies below).

6. Homework Reaction Paper to Reading or Video Assignments

The Instructor asks each student to bring a short reaction paper to class every session. These
may be similar to the one minute in class papers, in a more expanded form. It is important to
keep these limited to e.g. 250 words or one typed page. Like the Two Minute Quiz, this
assignment compels students to prepare their assignments. It also compels students to think
and write regularly about the discipline. Over time each student will begin to create a unique
individual profile built from the series of reaction papers.

7. Use of Video Clips

Video clips offer an excellent opportunity to break up a long period. Very brief clips (three
minutes or less) can be used to break up long lecture sessions (see the periodic pause strategy
below). But video clips will be of marginal value unless they are (1) selected carefully to add
additional value for the central learning goals of the lesson or unit, and (2) are bracketed by
guidance from teachers. Before the videos, teachers should indicate why the videos have been
chosen and what additional insight they provide They should point to features of the video clips
deserving special attention, and should raise questions for the students to be thinking about as
they watch the clips. After the clips, teachers should make space for students to write about or
discuss what they learned.

8. Daily or Weekly Journals

Teachers ask students to keep a daily or weekly journal about their course experiences.
Students can be asked to reflect on their learning challenges, on their personal study habits and
strategies, on their personal reactions, on SEPTEMBER 1, 2010 relevance of the course material to
future occupational aspirations or pressing public issues. The journal strategy can be combined
with the one minute paper strategy, if the one minute papers are brought together as journal

The benefits of students integrating journal writing across the curriculum are amply documented. From a
teacher's perspective, there are few activities that can trump journal writing for understanding and
supporting the development of student thinking. Journaling turbo-charges curiosity. The legendary Toby
Fulwiler, author of The Journal Book, writes, "Without an understanding of who we are, we are not likely
to understand fully why we study biology rather than forestry, literature rather than philosophy. From
Todd Finley, The Importance of Student Journals and How to Efficiently, Edutopia , SEPTEMBER 1,

II. Question and Answer Strategies

It is not uncommon for college teachers to stop a few minutes before the end of their lectures to
ask students whether they have any questions. Often, no hands go up and the class ends. At
other times, one student raises a question and the teacher devotes the remaining minutes of
class time to answering that one question. Other students are neglected and may tune out.
There are more effective Q & A strategies that bring more students into the conversation and
bring deeper thinking into play.

9. Wait Time

In this strategy, based on extensive research by Mary Budd Rowe, teachers ask questions and
then wait 15 seconds, during which students are prohibited from raising their hands or shouting
out answers. This slows down the fastest speaking students and gives the slower speaking
students a chance to participate. Wait time provides an opportunity for questions to sink in; it
gives students an opportunity to think about and jot down some thoughts about the question. IN
this way it is a cousin of the one-minute paper strategy. Instructors can use this strategy to
involve every student, by calling on students at random after wait time has expired.

10. Fishbowl or Canasta

This is a variation on the one minute paper in which, instead of writing on notebook paper or the
one-minute paper form, students write on 3x5 index cards. Five minutes before the end of class,
the Instructor asks students to write on their cards. Students ask questions or make statements
about the course material, its relevance, or its basis in research, etc. The cards are collected
and deposited in a bowl or basket, and the Instructor then reaches in and reads a few
comments or questions at random. The instructor explains that if those whose cards were not
chosen would like to discuss their comments or questions, office hours are available.

11. Student Summaries

Students are conditioned by the lecture method to pay attention to the teacher and ignore much
of what other students contribute. In this strategy the instructor invites students to ask
questions. But instead of answering them, the teacher then asks other students to rephrase and
summarize them. He may then ask other students to answer them. In this way students become
important players in the Q&A sessions.

12. Constructing Test Questions

Typically teachers prepare quiz and exam questions for students to answer. Sometimes
teachers hold test prep sessions before exams, where they discuss sample questions of the
type that will appear on the tests. But they can also invite students to submit sample questions
of the type they would expect to see on the tests, and then ask other students to discuss the
merits of those questions for their effectiveness in bringing out the learning specified in the
course goals. This strategy helps students think about course learning goals and their
effectiveness in achieving them. In addition, students take the role of teachers and have to think
like teachers.

III. Immediate Feedback Techniques

A good way to keep student attention focused is frequently to ask questions that invite
immediate student answers. There are many variations on this theme. Here are a couple of

13. Finger or Sign Signals

Earlier (when discussing review quizzes) we mentioned the use of student responses to
questions raised within homework or lecture segments. In this strategy the teacher breaks up
lecture segments with true/false or multiple choice questions. These can be presented on
powerpoint slides. Students answer by holding up fingers. For true/false questions, one finger
means true and two means false. For multiple choice questions, the number of fingers
represents the number of the answer; choice one gets one finger, etc.

In a variation, teachers hand out six signs at the beginning of the course - T (true), F (false) and
the numbers 1 through 4. Students respond to the questions by holding up the signs. Students
can be assigned to count the answers. The teachers can then follow up on student responses,
or call on students to explain and justify their answers.

14. Clickers
In another variation, students are equipped with clickers.

Clickers (personal response devices) look like calculators Students use keypads to respond to a
question, often multiple-choice, and the results are tabulated and displayedsimilar to popular television
game shows that survey the audience and reveal the percentage choosing each response.The clickers
by themselves are not a solution to improving student learning. Much depends on the quality of questions
that are presented and what the teacher and students do with the results. The clickers can be an
expensive, high-tech quiz machine or they can be an integral part of a teachers strategies to improve
participation, determine students misconceptions and misunderstandings, and adjust instruction to help
all students learn. Mary Bigelow, Clickers in the science classroom, NSTA Blog, April 28, 2010, online at

15. Poster Questions

In this strategy the teacher holds up a large poster or shows a powerpoint slide with a graph or
diagram, and then poses questions. Students respond with finger signals, signs or clickers.

Prods for Thinking

16. Pre-Lecture Paper

This strategy invites students to call up their intuitions or understandings of the topic of the
lecture before it is delivered. The strategy offers an opportunity for students to think intuitively
about the topic, or to call up their prior understandings that bear upon it. This enhances
continuity from lesson to lesson.

For example, in a unit on energy, students may be asked before a lecture on wind power to
draw a wind power system and explains how it works. Or the students may be given a handout
with a very incomplete drawing of a wind power system and asked to flesh it out. Other
examples: students may be asked to explain evolution by means of natural selection, or the
genetic modification of seeds, or DNA in the production of proteins. This strategy works best
when students have some relevant, but insufficient, pre-knowledge of the topic to be covered. A
one minute paper on pre-understandings offers an abbreviated version of this strategy. But
these papers often demand about three minutes.

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from
learning the answer itself. Lloyd Alexander, American Author

17. Pre-Lecture Quiz

A variation on the above strategy is to give students an ungraded quiz on the topic immediately
prior to the lecture. This gives students an opportunity to think about the questions covered in
the lecture before the teacher answers them.

This strategy may be used in a pre-lecture/post-lecture version, to demonstrate learning from

the lecture.
18. Puzzles and Challenges
In this strategy the teacher presents students with a challenging question or challenge and gives
them a few minutes to work on it. After a brief period of work, the teacher asks students for their
answers or asks them to describe how they are attacking the problem. If the students need help,
the teacher may point to deficiencies in student approaches and offer hints.

IV. Think/ Pair/Share Strategies

So far we have listed strategies teachers can use to get each individual in a class to think about
course subject matter. Many of these strategies can readily be adapted to students working in
pairs or small groups. In Think/ Pair/Share strategies, students initially think about a question or
topic on their own, and then pair up to share and discuss their answers.

Discussion is essential for conceptual learning and practical understanding. Here is a classical
statement about the importance of discussion from Mortimer Adler.

Discussion is the method by which adults learn from one another. And as so conceived, it differs quite
strikingly from that sort of learning in which an older person teaches a younger person.

Real discussion consists of two or more persons talking to one another, each asking questions, each
answering, making remarks and counter-remarks. Such conversation is at its best when the parties to it
tend to regard each other as equal. That is the heart of the difference between learning by discussion
and learning by instruction. In adult learning by discussion, each party to the discussion is both a teacher
and a learner. This means that listening is important, an essential part of discussion. In fact, listening is
more important, even as it is more difficult, than talking. Mortimer Adler, from Chapter 22 of How
to Think About the Great Ideas

Discussion is essential in college learning. Knowledge is embedded in social practices.

Concepts are tools in cooperative inquiry. Scientific understanding, for example, implies the
ability to engage in the activities of scientific communities of practice - to act as an expert.
Thinking like a scientist is using concepts as they are used in those communities.

Discussion framed by relevant questions is guided practice. When students, individually or in

groups, share their thoughts with one another in groups or in whole class settings, and get
feedback from one another and from teachers, they are learning to think like members of the
relevant communities of practice.

Using discussion techniques, students can work in pairs or small groups, sharing ideas, and
working toward a consensus when possible. By communicating with one another, students, in
addition to obtaining new insights and drawing criticisms, students can also refine
communication skills and gain fluency in talking about subject matter disciplines.

Discussion strategies work best when students are given specific prompts. For example,
students may first be asked a question or given a problem to work on. They can then be
directed to tell each other why you arrived at the answer you did.

19. The Periodic Pause

Every 12 to 15 minutes the teacher completes a lecture segment. Students are directed to
discuss the lecture content for 2 minutes, e.g., comparing notes and clarifying

20. Note Comparison Discussion

In this strategy the instructor sets side time at the end of a lecture segment and asks students to
share their lecture notes and fill in gaps in their own note taking.

21. Discussion of Minute Papers

In this strategy the instructor sets aside a period of time during the class period for a one minute
paper. Students then share and discuss their one minute papers, assessing arguments and
correcting errors. Students need to be given clear instructions about what to look for in their
partners work. This strategy, like test questions strategies, puts each student in the role of the
teacher or expert, and thus provides for practice with feedback.

22. Discussion of Minute Papers on Independent Reading

In this strategy the teacher assigns students to find further reading on the topic of the course
unit tied to their own interests. For example, in a unit on energy, some students will select an
article on solar power, while others will select one on wind, geothermal, or nuclear. For another
example, in a unit on contemporary short stories, a few stories are selected to be read by
everyone, and another small set is of e.g. four stories is selected so that each member of a four
person group has to read a different one. Students prepare minute papers on their reading of
their assigned stories, and then share and discuss their papers about the stories in small
groups. This strategy also places each student in an expert role, and is a good prod toward
more autonomous learning.

V. Small Group Strategies

Small group strategies, often also called collaborative learning strategies, bring 3 to 5 students
together in small groups working toward a specified goal - for example, solving a problem or
making an analysis of a work of fiction.

It is important to distinguish collaborative learning - working together toward a goal - from

cooperative learning, which is a subcategory of collaborative learning. While all collaborative
strategies involve small groups of students working together, cooperative learning strategies -
as the term implies - emphasize cooperation - with each individual members consciously and
concretely assisting each other member. In cooperative learning strategies, time must be set
aside explicitly for students to learn about how to work effectively in groups and how each
member can assist the others. The group has to take the time to learn about the strengths and
weaknesses of each member, and how each member can contribute in concrete ways.

In conventional instruction sets individual students against each other in a competitive situation,
cooperative learning breaks the individualist mind set. In college teaching we have to look at
teaching strategies from two perspectives: (1) are individual students learning the assigned
subject matter, and (2) are the students as a group learning to achieve the ordinarily latent goals
of conceptual thinking, communication and cooperation toward common goals. In college
instruction we are both informing students and creating the future society with its deep or
shallow habits of thinking, its competitive or cooperative attitudes. Cooperative learning aims to
enhance both instructional effectiveness and pro-social skills and attitudes, prescribed by the
philosophy of buen vivir.

Three kinds of small group formations are used in cooperative learning: (i) informal or ad hoc
groups formed spontaneously on-the spot to work together on a particular problem or task; (ii)
formal groups organized to work on structured longer term tasks such as group projects; in
these projects the students often work together outside of class hours, with the teacher
available for consultation, and (iii) base groups, assigned at the beginning of class for lasting
mutual support and accountability. In courses shaped by the cooperative learning strategy, base
groups are formed from day one, and specific training on group skills and mutual aid is
introduced early. Teachers use longer term strategies of group problem solving and group

23. Active Review Sessions

In typical review sessions, students ask questions and the professor or a Teaching Assistant
answers them. All students focus their attention on the teacher. In an active review session this
teacher-centric logic is turned on its head. The teacher asks the questions - often the types of
questions students may expect on an exam - and the students, working together in groups,
answer them. The teacher may then direct each group to share its answer and how it arrived at
or justified it with the whole class, followed by brief discussion.
24. Concept Mapping
In this strategy students work together in teams, brainstorming to generate lists of all of the
facts, ideas, and principles for an entire unit or course, and then drawing lines to connect them.
Most of the particles will be connected to two or more others, and students work to identify the
most meaningful connections. For example, some concepts fall under others in a hierarchical
scheme. Some concepts are defined in terms of others. Some facts are explained by a n
identified principle or rule. Some objects are related to others as cause and effect, etc. While
concept maps may be created by individual students, concept mapping in groups is more
dynamic, with students using diverse strategies and remembering different particles. Each
students contribution will prod the memories and creative thinking of the others. In this way
students can come to appreciate the benefits of cooperation.

A concept map is a type of graphic organizer used

to help students organize and represent knowledge of
a subject. Concept maps begin with a main idea (or
concept) and branch out to show how that idea can
be broken down into specific topics. Used as a
learning and teaching technique, concept mapping
visually illustrates the relationships between concepts
and ideas. Often represented in circles or boxes,
concepts are linked by words and phrases that explain
the connection between the ideas, helping students
organize and structure their thoughts to further
understand information and discover new
relationships. Most concept maps represent a
hierarchical structure, with the overall, broad concept first with connected sub-topics, more specific
concepts, following.

Good videos: Concept Mapping. Elizabeth Trapasso

Lana Sumpter
See good example for climate change:

25. Role-Playing
In the role playing strategy, students act out a situation of incident with each playing a
representative role. To take a very simple example, in a retail sales role play, one student might
play a shopper, a second a salesperson, and a third a sales supervisor. To take an example
from science education, in a Writing in Science course students can first be assigned to make
a rapid review for a given research topic and then propose a research paper. Other students
can then play the role of e.g. journal editors, or conference panel judges, or thesis committee
members, and provide feedback for improvement, or summary judgements of acceptance or
rejection. Note that all of these roles are essential to the functioning of the scientific community
in society.
Here is a good resource on role-playing: Role-Playing in Science Education: An Effective
Strategy for Developing Multiple Perspectives,
EV Howes - 2009, Elaine V. Howes, University of South Florida Brbara C. Cruz, Journal of Elementary Science
Education, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Summer 2009), pp. 33-46

When science students enter discussions about public issues related to science, they often find
that their scientific knowledge is not sufficient. Other communities, including law, commerce,
politics, and public interest activism, each with its own norms of practice, intersect with the
science community. Role play strategies can be useful in helping students gain an appreciation
of these other communities and their perspectives, as well as the challenges of bring science to
bear upon such issue. A worthwhile video describing an interdisciplinary college science role
play activity is:

Understanding Science Implications in society - The Role-playing Game Agrofood Democracy.

It is very confusing for students as citizens to interface scientific principles and data of agrofood biotechnologies
with other societal issues related to food production such as organic farming, sustainable agriculture, food safety, the
perceived control of seeds by transnational corporations, the perceived loss of biodiversity and traditional seeds and
foods, or the anti-GM food attitude of most NGOs, among many other issues.

These other aspects are generally not included in most science courses dedicated to agrofood biotechnology for a
variety of reasons. Why and how far are the principles of organic farming not compatible with those of agrofood
biotechnology? Why do some European regions declare themselves as "GM-free" zones? Why do food producers
have to advertise in the label that a product contains something that, in turn, could be objectionable for some people?
Is GM food a new kind of pressure against developing countries? Who and how makes all the decisions regarding
the agrofood biotech products in Europe?

We have developed a role-playing game about a hypothetical European Union committee to decide the future of
transgenic maize in Europe. Students will have to immerse themselves into the role of consumers and farmers of
widely different opinions, scientists, NGOs, and biotechnology companies to arrive at a consensus.

26. Panel Discussions

In this strategy the teacher assigns a group of students to research (different dimensions of) a
topic. Each student is assigned to research and prepare a brief panel presentation on their
assigned topic, and then answer questions from the audience consisting of the students in the
class, who will in most cases be members of other panel groups. Because scholarship in all
disciplines and fields is generally communicated through conference presentations, this is an
authentic opportunity for students to practice thinking like professionals and receiving
feedback. This is a very good strategy for more advanced courses, because students already
have sufficient knowledge and academic know how to get started in preparing serious
presentations. However, students must be given clear directions and coaching in preparing their
presentations for this strategy to work well.
27. Simulations
In this strategy, students manipulate simulations, anticipating and noting what happens when
parameters are modified.

Simulations are computational models of real or hypothesized situations or natural phenomena that
allow users to explore the implications of manipulating or modifying parameters within them (Clark et
al., 2009).

Plass, Homer, and Hayward (2009) propose that a simulation differs from a static visualization (e.g., a
diagram in a textbook) because it is dynamic,and differs from a dynamic visualization (an animation)
because it allows user interaction. Other experts, however, use the term visualization to refer to a
simulation that allows interactivity. For example, Linn and colleagues (2010) define visualizations as
interactive, computer-based animations (such as models, simulations, and virtual experiments) of
scientific phenomena. Reflecting this variation, this report will use the terms simulation and
interactive visualization interchangeably.

Simulations allow users to observe and interact with representations of processes that would otherwise
be invisible. These features make simulations valuable for understanding and predicting the behavior of
a variety of phenomena, ranging from financial markets to population growth and food production.
Scientists routinely develop and apply simulations to model and understand natural phenomena across
a wide range of scales, from subatomic to planetary. From: Margaret A. Honey and Margaret Hilton,
Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations, National Academies Press, 2011. Free downwload at

28. Games
Computer games differ from simulations in several ways. Perhaps most importantly, games are played
spontaneously in informal contexts for fun and enjoyment, whereas users typically interact with a
simulation in a formal context, such as a science class or workplace. In addition, games generally
incorporate explicit goals and rules. These two features of games are shared by both computer and
traditional games, including board games such as Chess or Monopoly and outdoor games such as
Capture the Flag.

Computer games also differ from computer simulations in two other ways: (1) they provide feedback to
measure the players progress toward goals, and (2) the players actions and overall game play strategies
influence the state of the gamethe overall digital world and the players further interactions with it
(Clark et al., 2009; Hays, 2005). Although many games include an element of competition, and this
increases enjoyment for some individuals, not all games are competitive.
From: Margaret A. Honey and Margaret Hilton, Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations,
National Academies Press, 2011. Free downwload at


Simulations across many science disciplines and topics at many grade levels
Founded in 2002 by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at
the University of Colorado Boulder creates free interactive math and science simulations. PhET
sims are based on extensive education research and engage students through an intuitive,
game-like environment where students learn through exploration and discovery.

29. Jigsaw Groups

This strategy is useful when a larger project or task can be broken into several parts. It can also
be used when the project, problem, or task depends on different capabilities. Each member of a
small group is assigned, or assumes, responsibility for each part of the whole, conducts
research or completes that part, and the group then meets to re-assemble to parts into a whole.

In a large class or group, the whole group can (1) be broken into small problem groups. In each
problem group, members are each assigned a specific role or function. Then (2) students in
assigned the same function in each problem group now leave to form new specialty or expert
groups to conduct research on that function. Then (3) the original problem groups re-form; each
now has an expert on each function who can contribute to the whole. (4) The problem groups
now re-connect the parts into a whole.

For example, in a unit on genetically modified food students in a class of 25, the whole class
could be divided into five problem groups of 5 students each. Then one member of each group
could be assigned to role of consumer, farmer, scientist, NGO activist and biotechnology
manufacturer. Then all of the consumers, farmers, etc., meet in expert specialty groups to
research the perspectives of each group. Then the experts go back to their original problem
groups, which attempt to reach a consensus position, or state the obstacles to consensus.
toward a consensus.