This project is aiming to practice with and implement active learning pedagogies in a lecture/recitation teaching/learning environment focused on quantitative methods in social science research. One of the goals is to rethink the arrangement of skills, concepts, and training applied to research reports (i.e. studies) reported in peer-review and popular literature/news as well as pre/post evaluations of student learning. During the Summer of 2018, this project tested active learning pedagogies in a smaller, summer section of the course and creating a detailed redesign of course in preparation for the full-size course, Methods of Communication Inquiry, (~200 students +4 TA’s) to launch in AY 2018-2019. The initial measure of critical thinking was very reliable, and the project’s efforts to increase practice at critical thinking improved scores (comparing pre to post) on the professor’s measure (using a multiple-choice measure, with other qualitative data to explore). The gains were larger than they had measured in previous semesters. The use of Slack as a communications technology resulted in a few lessons about how to structure this (announce at the start of the semester v. the middle; ideas on how to structure the groups in Slack; how to explain the site to students, etc). One drawback was that the most conscientious student in each group basically provided detailed and thoughtful answers to the questions early on. This made subsequent discussion irrelevant, as someone in each group had made a forceful case for the best answer. Dan will work on improving this design to generate more thoughtful discussions from all group members. The Spring of 2019 will see both implementation of new strategies in full-size course and evaluation of changes.
Associate Professor of Communication