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Active Teaching and Learning

Approaches in Science
(ATLAS) Workshop

Phase 1

The workshop aims to introduce the

participants to a wide range of teaching
and learning approaches designed to:to:
• raise the motivation and achievement of
students in science

• put constructivist principles into practice

• develop scientific literacy, capability and key


• encourage collaborative learning

• assist the teaching of ideas and evidence

Participants in the workshop will have:

 gained knowledge and understanding

of a range of effective teaching and
learning approaches

 gained first-hand experience of using,

as well as being involved in a range
of effective teaching and learning
 developed the confidence to write
curriculum materials which
incorporate the teaching and learning

 trialed, reviewed, evaluated and

discussed the potential use of the
Learning Pyramid

Lecture 5%

Reading 10%

Audio-Visual 20%

Demonstration 30%

Discussion Group 50%

Practice by Doing 75%

Teach others / Immediate 90%

use of Learning
Types of learner and
preferred learning styles

It is important to be aware that in most groups

there are essentially four types of learners,
each having a preferred learning style. These
have been identified as follows:
Type of
learner Activist Reflector Theorist Pragmatist

Preferred • new • stand back • structured • relevancy

learning experiences and observe situation, clear and
style purpose usefulness
• active • review the
participation learning • system or • opportunity
model to tackle real
• ‘in at the • thinking and observed problems
deep end’ decision
challenges making • analysis and
• I hear and I forget

• I see and I remember

• I do and I understand
Main Differences Between Active
And Passive Learning
Teaching-centred passive learning is
characterised by:
• teacher exposition
• accent on competition
• whole-class teaching
• teacher responsible for the
• teacher providing knowledge
• students seen as empty vessels which need
filling up
• subject knowledge valued
• teacher-imposed discipline

• teacher and student roles stressed

• teacher decides curriculum
• passive student roles
• limited range of learning styles and
Student-centred active learning is
characterised by:

• group work
• accent on cooperation
• resource-based learning
• student takes responsibility for learning
• teacher is a guide/facilitator
• student ownership of ideas and work
• process skills are valued
• self-discipline
• students seen as a source of knowledge
and ideas

• student involved in curriculum planning

• student actively involved in learning
• wide range of learning styles employed
Active teaching takes place when the

• encourages student responsibility for learning

• gets students to think for themselves
• offers a wide range of learning
opportunities and strategies
• encourages any activities that lead to
the active learning situations
described above
Active learning takes place when

• have personal involvement in their learning

• make decisions about the outcome of their
• own their work
• test their own ideas
• plan and design their own experiments
• report their results to the rest of the class
• evaluate their results
• solve problems
• discuss and interact purposefully in
• reflect on the work they have done
and formulate their ideas
Activity 1
What active teaching and learning approaches do
you use?

Make a list of the active teaching and learning

approaches you use.

You will be asked to give at least one approach

from your list during the following brainstorm.
When introducing Active Learning try

• be realistic about the situations you present to

students and the outcomes you expect

• begin with a short activity and a simple task

• extend existing teaching methods,
e.g. if you run group discussions make these
more student led

• prepare yourself for limited initial success.

Students need to acquire the necessary skills
progressively over a period of time.
What forms of reading take place in
notes, etc.)
Text books

Reference books

Exercise books

Which of these reading forms do you think lead to

active reading? Which lead to passive reading?
Comparison of active reading and
science practical work
Active reading
Practical process
The active processes investigation

encouraged by active
Searching for
reading are directly information
analogous to the
ordered processes used Collecting
all the time during
practical investigations Grouping and

Collecting and sorting information

• library searches to find out specific information

for project work can be made more active if the
information is classified or sorted in some way

• pre-selected passages of text can be used to

limit the degree of initial research necessary
• cloze is a predicting exercise
• words are deleted from a text at certain intervals
• students asked to reconstruct the text by
predicting the missing words
e.g. Digestion is the process which insoluble food,
consisting large molecules, is broken into soluble
compounds having molecules.
Deletion on an irregular basis offers even greater potential:
e.g. Digestion is the process by which insoluble food,
consisting of molecules, is broken down into compounds
having smaller molecules.
• with irregular deletion the teacher has control
over the word omitted
• can choose important or key words to
leave out
• cloze works best when the initial few
lines have no deletions at all
• it helps students to follow the text style
• a final paragraph without deletions
is also useful.
Cloze can be used:

• as a basic study skill

• to assess a pupils understanding of a
• to involve students in decision making
• to increase motivation
• to stimulate group discussion
If cloze is used, guard against the
• it needs to be used selectively
• it can produce unpredictable responses
• deletions need to be carefully
• too many deletions are frustrating
• the technique makes no attempt
to analyse text if deletions are
• similar to exercises found in children’s puzzle
books where a word is changed into a picture
• fun to do and can motivate students, especially
younger ones
• may aid memory

• this technique can be used to pick out single

words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs or data
from a text.
• emphasising helps with revision and the
general organisation of work.
Try encouraging students to:

• emphasise key words or concepts

• classify work using colour coding,

underlining, highlighting or ringing

• highlight areas of text according to purpose,

e.g. statement of fact, opinion, application
of idea, etc.

• powerful technique allied to the cloze method

• the text is physically divided up and then


• students rearrange the pieces of text into the

correct order
• can also be done with the aid of diagrams

• particularly useful for developing planning

skills for practicals

e.g. practical instructions can be muddled and given

to a student, who must then put them into order.
This can be made more difficult by omitting some

• the labelling of diagrams can be used to encourage

active reading for information.

• to begin, labels can be supplied for cutting out

and sticking on to prepared diagrams.

• students can progress from this to examining

text to find appropriate labels for diagrams.
labelling can be used:

• to encourage students to ask questions

about text

• to get students to consider ideas hidden

in text

• to annotate diagrams as an aide-


• to help students classify text

But remember!
• careful selection of diagrams and text
is important

• too many labels can cause

Activity 2: Active Reading

• try some of the active reading activities provided

• how do they actively engage the students in
the learning?
• in your teams write one example of a cloze
activity, an emphasis activity, and a
sequencing activity
Active Writing
Developing active
writing in Science
Types of active writing

reports Letters
Presentations Plays
What types of active writing can be used?
Active and creative writing include:
• diaries • poetry
• investigation reports • plays
• newspaper reports • letters
• prose
• TV and radio interviews
• Which? Type consumer reports

These writing approaches help students to clarify

their own thinking in science, just as small group
discussion allows students to explore ideas.
Why encourage active writing?

Active writing encourages students to:

• take responsibility for their own writing

• clarify and express their own ideas
• communicate their findings to others
• express personal feelings and reactions
to scientific issues and theories
• give students the opportunity to reflect on their
own learning
• allow students to communicate their own ideas
on a topic before any teaching begins
• give teachers valuable insight into student
understanding, particularly useful in mixed
ability classes
• provide writing opportunities for real
communication and allow students to clarify
and record information
Writing letters in science:
• aids revision
• develops and reinforces concepts
• helps teachers to identify things students have
• introduces a style of science writing that is
useful in later life
Writing letters at the end of a module, unit or
topic provides students with a context for
communicating what they have learnt.
What are the possible problems?
The following comments point out shortfalls in active
writing exercises which should be guarded against:
• ‘I don’t know what to put’ • ‘This is a waste of time’
• ‘why are we writing like this?’ • ‘Not newspapers again’
• ‘I don’t want people to look at my diary

To counteract this, the teacher can:

• provide a range of activities • liaise with other departments
• keep initial projects short • with diaries, ensure privacy

• encourage group discussion of

activities to provide ownership
Activity 3: Active Writing
• Working in a group review the examples of
active writing activities provided and then:

list a range of topics that might encourage students to

create newspaper reports
list a range of topics which will stimulate group
discussion followed by letter writing
list a range of topics that might encourage students to
write poems
write an activity that will engage the students in
active writing. Remember to introduce the context
and include the stimulus.
Group Discussion (Talking and Listening)

Types of discussion activities

Creating a climate Active listening

for discussion

Small group Whole class

discussion discussion
Establishing the ground rules
for group work
Student-centred active learning needs to be
well structured and controlled. It is therefore
important, particularly with larger groups , to
establish ground rules at an early stage.

What are the rules for establishing ground rules?

There is really only one!

Get the group to establish the ground rules

Suggested ground rules
Compare your students’ ground rules with the
following suggested set of ground rules
• don’t interrupt anybody
• listen to each other
• be responsible for what you do
• stick to the rules!
• respect each others opinions
• don’t say anything if you don’t wish to
• no snide remarks
• refrain from making trouble
How can we encourage
students to keep to the rules

• keep reminding them

• display rules in a prominent place
• remind them that the rules are their own and so,
their responsibility
• make sure there is consensus and that the rules
represent a contract between the group
Active listening
• active listening is an essential component of
discussion work
• it is important that students can build on what
others have said, to keep discussion flowing
• too often we think someone communicates well
because they speak well
• the best communicators are also efficient
An active listener should:

• sit quietly and look at the speaker

• relax and make any non-verbal responses that
come naturally, e.g. nodding or smiling
• concentrate on listening and suspend all
judgements and questions
• make verbal responses that only reflect or
paraphrase the main points discussed
How can we improve students’
listening skills?
There are a number of things we can do to
encourage students to be more active listeners:
• pose questions to a wide range of students
• ask students to make brief notes on a talk, demonstration,
video, etc.
• bring students around the front bench with note books. They
will feel more involved in the proceedings
• move around the laboratory to get closer to students sitting
further back
• practice active listening skills. E.g. begin a class discussion
and then ask successive students to reflect on key phrases
talked about before adding something of their own.