Two students looking at a computer

Knowledge Application

Use these strategies to help students apply their knowledge to problems and situations outside the classroom.

 

Learning through failure

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students.
  2. Assign groups the task of deliberately designing something for failure. Groups may be assigned the same thing or something different.
  3. Allow groups the opportunity to share what they’ve created, along with their thought processes for the creation.

Examples:

  • In a civil engineering course: Design a bridge that is likely to collapse or a tunnel that is likely to flood.
  • In a food science course: Create a diet totally lacking in nutrition.
  • In a political science course: Outline the most oppressive or unworkable government imaginable.

Variation:

Present students with a scenario that includes a failure, such as why a bridge collapsed. Ask students to brainstorm all the reasons they can imagine, in the context of the scenario, why the bridge collapsed. Follow-up with an activity that would allow the students to create a solid bridge suitable for the given scenario.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 62.

Critical debate

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Present a problem or pose a question to the class.
  2. Divide the class in half.
  3. Assign each half a position to support.
  4. Moderate a class debate where students address the merits of one position over the other.

Example:

In a labor relations course, students debate proposed cuts to an employee benefits package. Half the students represent the business, which has been charged with reducing its budget; the other half represent the employee union, which objects to some of the proposed modifications.

Variations:

  • After arguing for one side, students argue for the opposite side, attempting to elicit new rationales.
  • Have students argue the side that is opposite to their true beliefs in order to deepen their overall understanding of the issue.

Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 180-181.

  • Student teams debate in small groups (in breakout rooms if teaching online).
  • Students determine the topic(s) for debate by voting on a list of controversial or unresolved topics.

(Last two variations drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey)

Brain drain

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions, and OneDrive and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups of 5 or 6.
  2. Hand out an empty grid of six rows and three columns to every student.
  3. Provide a prompt or task at the top to brainstorm. Each student brainstorms possible answers in row one.
  4. After three minutes, each student passes their paper to the student on their right and works on row 2 (without repeating any answers from row 1).
  5. Continue to pass the paper until the sheet is filled in.
  6. Debrief to find the best answers.

Example:

In an agriculture course: What are the implications for society of the disappearance of bees?

Less produce in grocery stores Beekeeper unemployment  
     
     
     
     
     

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Point-counterpoint

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  • Introduce an issue that can be debated.
  • Ask students to work in pairs or small groups.
  • Assign half the class the task of coming up with arguments to support one side of the debate and the other half of the class to support the other side. (Multi-faceted issues with more than two arguable points can also be used.) Students prepare their arguments in class.
  • Call the class together.
  • Randomly choose a student to begin the debate. The student presents one argument.
  • Call on another student to present a different argument or a counter-argument.
  • Move the debate along quickly and stop the discussion once new arguments are exhausted.
  • Summarize the arguments.

Variations:

  • Instead of sharing arguments in a whole-class discussion, pair students so that they argue one-on-one. Every student is therefore simultaneously engaged in the debate.
  • Assign students the task of summarizing the arguments.
  • Assign students a follow-up assignment related to the in-class discussion.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 90.

Presentations

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Assign a research question related to a real-world problem.
  2. Explain to students that they will share their findings in an oral presentation.
  3. Discuss your expectations for presentations with students (e.g., presenters [individual, pairs, or small groups]; length; level of formality; structure; technology use). Decisions about each of these elements should be aligned with desired learning outcomes and available class time.
  4. Involve students in setting rubric criteria for assessing the presentations.

Variations:

  • Students can video record their presentations and post them to myCourse.
  • Students can present to small groups of peers rather than to the entire class. The listening members of the small group can summarize main points and report them to the larger class.
  • Students can prepare PechaKucha style presentations. See:

Edwards, R. L., (2010, Nov. 3). Pecha Kucha in the classroom: Tips and strategies for better presentations. Remixing the Humanities. <http://remixhumanities.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/pecha-kucha-in-the-classroom-tips-and-strategies-for-better-presentations/>.

Jones, J. B. (2009, Nov. 2). Challenging the presentation paradigm (in 6 minutes, 40 seconds): Pecha Kucha. ProfHacker: The Chronicle of Higher Education. <http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/challenging-the-presentation-paradigm-in-6-minutes-40-seconds-pecha-kucha/22807>.

PechaKucha 20 images ×20 seconds. <http://www.pechakucha.org/>

Simulations

Online adaptation: Possible in Zoom and myCourses Discussions (video uploads)

A person, system or computer program demonstrates an action, symptom or scenario that illustrates a problem.

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to take the appropriate action or to give a detailed verbal explanation of what they would do to solve the problem or address the situation.
  2. In a whole-class discussion, debrief students’ responses.

Examples:

  • Students in a health and safety course practice using a defibrillator with a lifelike mannequin.
  • Students in an investment course buy and sell stocks in a trading room simulation, evaluating the success of their portfolio and explaining their rationale for various decisions made.

Variation:

Students take turns role playing the appropriate action, symptom or scenario, to which peers then respond.

Case studies

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Provide students with cases they are likely to encounter in situations outside the classroom.
  2. Allow time for students to read the case(s) and ask questions about them.
  3. Ask students to apply their learning to address the cases.

Examples:

  • In a course in medicine, students are asked to match findings to interventions applied, and articulate the implications for the patient.
  • In a finance course, the instructor presents students with numerous loan applications for start-up businesses. Students evaluate which loan applications will be approved and which will be declined, and justify their responses.

Variation:

This strategy can be combined with Think-Pair-Share: students first generate a couple of approaches to the case individually and then pair up. In pairs, students share their proposed scenarios, and then choose one to develop in depth.

Steinert, Y., & Snell, L. S. (1999). Interactive lecturing: Strategies for increasing participation in large group presentations. Medical Teacher, 21(1), 37-42. Available at http://med.ubc.ca/files/2012/03/Interactive-Lecturing-Strategies.pdf.

Student-created case studies

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into pairs or small groups.
  2. Assign students the task of creating a brief case study, i.e., a description of a concrete situation that illustrates an issue or problem to be addressed.
  3. Groups present their cases to the class and lead the case discussion where peers address the case.

Example:

Students in a physical therapy course create a case study in which a physiotherapist is asked to propose a treatment plan for a sports injury, given certain symptoms and background information.

Variations:

Students prepare their cases in advance of the class.
Instead of whole class presentations, groups pair up and exchange case studies.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 116.

Movie application

Online adaptation: Possible in myCourses Discussions and Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Have students form small groups.
  2. Provide students with examples of movies that made use of a concept or event discussed in class.
  3. Ask students to identify at least one way the movie-makers got it right and one way they got it wrong.

Examples:

Variation:

Ask students to find examples of movies that made use of a concept or event discussed in class.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Group breakout room discussion and presentation

Online implementation: Possible in Zoom

Instructions:

  1. Pose a question or share a discussion prompt in the chat.
  2. Provide students with guidelines for discussion (e.g., how long they’ll have to discuss; if roles, such as moderator and note-taker, should be assigned; how/where they should record their discussion).
  3. Send students to breakout rooms to discuss the question or prompt. Let students know that the instructor and TAs might circulate through breakout rooms.
  4. When the discussion time has elapsed, close the breakout rooms so that students return to the large group.
  5. Students from each breakout room group present a synthesis of their discussion to the class.
     

Variations:

  • Students debrief in larger groups, still in breakout rooms.
  • Students take notes on their discussion in a collaborative document (e.g., OneDrive) for sharing with peers in myCourses.
  • Students share a synthesis of their discussion (e.g., two key take-aways) in the chat or orally.

(Strategy drawn from instructor responses to McGill’s March 2021 Remote Teaching Survey) 

 


McGill University is on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. We acknowledge and thank the diverse Indigenous people whose footsteps have marked this territory on which peoples of the world now gather.


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