Fostering Active Learning

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Associate professor Paula Lemons leads an introductory biochemistry class in one of the two SCALE-UP classrooms inside the Science Learning Center.

With unrivaled hands-on learning opportunities, the University of Georgia has established itself as one of the nation’s leading public universities. To enhance the learning environment for students even further, a new initiative to foster active learning is under way. 

The active learning initiative stems from a recommendation of the President’s Task Force on Student Learning and Success, which took a fresh look at UGA’s undergraduate learning environment to identify new opportunities to further enhance the educational experience for UGA students, both inside and outside the classroom. The 20-member committee was co-chaired by Vice President for Instruction Rahul Shrivastav and Vice President for Student Affairs Victor Wilson.

Broadly defined, active learning is the adoption of instructional practices that engage students in the learning process. It has been shown to improve writing and critical thinking skills, as well as students’ understanding of the material and their ability to apply it outside of the classroom.

Because of benefits such as these, many faculty members at the University of Georgia incorporate active learning strategies in their classrooms. Faculty members in physics and other fields in the sciences, for example, use the SCALE-UP learning model, which focuses on class participation in an interactive, technology-rich environment. Faculty members in departments such as classics, history and anthropology use Reacting to the Past pedagogy, which consists of elaborate, structured games in which students speak and write in character to gain a deeper and more nuanced perspective on the subject matter.

To promote an even wider adoption of active learning pedagogies, President Morehead has designated $250,000 for an intensive 2018 summer institute to help faculty incorporate active learning strategies into their undergraduate courses. The six-week Active Learning Summer Institute will be hosted by the Center for Teaching and Learning during the two summer short sessions, with 16 faculty in each cohort. In addition, the Center for Teaching and Learning is creating a teaching laboratory for instructors to examine and test different technologies or classroom setups that promote active learning. To help ensure that physical spaces on campus enable active learning, President Morehead created a $1 million fund to transform select traditional classrooms with fixed chairs and tables into active learning spaces.

Thanks to the dedication of our faculty and initiatives ranging from our nationally recognized experiential learning requirement to the recent small class size initiative, the quality of the learning experience that the University of Georgia provides to its students has risen dramatically over the past several years. Measures of student success—such as retention, graduation and career outcomes rates—are at record levels, as well. With the active learning initiative, the University of Georgia continues to innovate for the benefit of its outstanding students.

More information:
Active Learning Initiative