Contextualized, Active and Collaborative Learning: Practicing What We Preach

Despite ample empirical evidence in favor of learner-centered teaching methods, institutional professional development programs rarely result in widespread adoption.  Community colleges such as Houston community College (HCC) are no exception.  Although HCC classes are small and therefore ideal for effective implementation, widespread implementation necessitates training unusually large numbers of faculty, many of whom are part-time and may be transient to HCC.  Moreover, pedagogy training tends to be content-free and often does not result in sustained implementation.  Going active and collaborative can be daunting, especially in content-heavy science courses, and when tried in isolation often leads to reinventing of the wheel without the benefit of peer support.  It is no wonder that faculty frequently cite lack of time as a major barrier to converting their traditional lecture material into active and collaborative exercises.


To get around these challenges, HCC instituted HCC INSPIRE, a Quality Enhancement Plan designed to institutionalize contextualized, active and collaborative learning through contextualized, active and collaborative training.   Three engaging, content-driven learning modules were developed for three high-enrollment gateway science courses taught by 132 faculty (46 full-time and 86 part-time).  Modules covered an entire textbook chapter (encouraging a true lesson plan overhaul rather than serve as a mere add-on) and incorporated well-honed active and collaborative activities ready for implementation.  Regular face-to-face data sharing and troubleshooting meetings with fellow course instructors had the effect of creating a supportive faculty learning community.  The results have been encouraging.  Of all faculty scheduled to teach a target course in Spring 2015, 93% of full-time and 40% of part-time target course faculty were trained in module delivery.  Training resulted in a cumulative implementation rate of 82% over the course of HCC INSPIRE, and in a recent survey 89% of the respondents reported they are now more likely to experiment with (other) active and collaborative activities.  To date, an estimated 6,440 students in 322 sections have participated in the module experience.  Attesting to implementation quality is the fact that students in participating sections significantly outscored those in non-participating sections on a final exam essay question.

ID 15546

To contact this college about this intervention, take note of the ID above, ID #15546, and then fill out the intervention contact request form

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