Active and Cooperative Learning

A Typical Class Session

Every class meeting (mine are usually 75 minutes, twice a week) starts with me giving a short mini-lecture on the first topic from that day's material. This topic may be one that is complex and difficult to understand, or that is critical for my students to fully understand for the rest of the course or their careers. I then assign an exercise from the textbook on this material that the students work on in their assigned groups. In some classes, this process is done once during the class period and other times it is done twice. When done twice, the mini-lectures are about 15 minutes each and the problem sessions are about 20. When done once, the time is about doubled.

students working in their groupsDuring the problem time, I walk around the room and check on my students. I find that if I join their groups that they feel intimidated and stop talking or will turn to me to ask if they are right. So instead, I stand near the groups and eavesdrop. If I find they are having trouble and need help, I will then "step into their circle" but will still wait for them to ask me a question before offering help/advice. In this way, I try to empower them to do their own learning, since that's the way it is once they leave college anyway.

Make sure you give your students plenty of time to do an exercise. If not, your students will get frustrated with the process because they can't finish the activities on time. It is better to give them extra time, and have an extra task planned if they finish early than to have too much work for too little time. This is also a way to challenge groups that are doing better to push them farther. If this is the case, I will also give a bonus point, for work over and above the rest of the class.

Introducing Students to Active and Cooperative Learning
Evaluation Mechanisms

All opinions represented on this page are mine. No assumption should be made based on these statements about Canisius College, the Canisius College Computer Science Department, or the Canisius College faculty, staff, and students.

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Last updated June 26, 2001 by Dr. Jeffrey J. McConnell