Improving STEM Teaching And Learning Through Active Learning

  • Jill Nelson George Mason University
  • Robert Sachs George Mason University
  • Stephanie Foster George Mason University
  • Jessica Rosenberg George Mason University
  • Laura Poms George Mason University
  • Jaime Lester George Mason University
  • Carrie Klein George Mason University


Location: JC Room A

Studies across the STEM disciplines have shown that student engagement and active learning improve student attitudes, retention, and understanding (e.g., Fry, 2014; Freeman et al., 2014; National Research Council, 2012; and references therein), with greater impact on women and previously low-achieving students (Kogan & Laursen, 2014; Laursen et al., 2014). A recent meta-analysis of 225 studies has shown that active learning improves student performance on examinations and concept inventories (Freeman et al., 2014). Numerous pedagogical strategies fall under the active learning umbrella, including peer instruction (Mazur, 1997), conceptual clicker questions (e.g., Miller et al., 2006), flipped classrooms, student blogs, Treismanâs emerging scholar program (Treisman, 1992), and oral reviews (Nelson, 2010). The implementation and degree of active engagement vary greatly from class to class and instructor to instructor. Nevertheless, studies have consistently shown improvements in student learning when these techniques are used (Laursen et al., 2012). Given the evidence of active learningâs efficacy for all students, and especially non-traditional populations, the need to engage in active learning at Mason is particularly relevant. Further, as a part of the university's strategic plan and its ongoing infrastructure improvements, Mason is poised to scale its implementation of active and inquiry-based learning by engaging faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates in changing the culture of teaching and learning. The purpose of this workshop is to actively engage attendees in various active learning strategies that can be employed in a variety of classroom settings to improve student learning, retention, and engagement. Based on the work of a National Science Foundation funded grant to leverage active learning pedagogy across STEM curriculum, workshop leaders will share evidence-based approaches for developing, implementing, and assessing active learning techniques. Although the expertise of the panelists lies primarily in the STEM fields, the active learning techniques shared are applicable across a variety of disciplines and can be implemented in small seminars or large lecture halls. Active learning techniques presented and discussed will range from ânoviceâ to more advanced, and facilitators will describe how techniques can be tailored to various active learning comfort levels. As a part of the workshop, attendees will engage in student-centered learning activities, hear from leaders about their implementation of and experiences with active learning, and map out ways to integrate active learning in their own teaching practices. This this workshop provides an opportunity for participants, whether new to active learning or highly skilled in its implementation, to learn and share strategies for integrating this innovative pedagogical approach into practice.

Author Biographies

Jill Nelson, George Mason University

**2014 University Teaching Excellence Award Winner**

Jill is an associate professor in electrical and computer engineering. Her research in STEM education is focused on faculty teaching development to support broad adoption of evidence-based teaching practices.

Robert Sachs, George Mason University

**2012 David J. King Teaching Award Winner**

College of Science


Stephanie Foster, George Mason University

**4-VA Grant Recipient **

Office of the Provost 

Undergradaute Education

Jessica Rosenberg, George Mason University

Dr. Rosenberg is the Director of the STEM Accelerator in the College of Science and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. She is an astronomer who studies the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time primarily by studying the baryonic content of galaxies and the intergalactic medium. She is also an educator interested in improving the retention and diversity of students in the Mason College of science through enhanced learning experiences.

Laura Poms, George Mason University

Health and Human Services

Jaime Lester, George Mason University

**2013 University Teaching Excellence Award Winner**

**2012 Teacher of Distinction**

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Higher Education Program

Carrie Klein, George Mason University

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Higher Education

10:30am-12:00pm Workshops