It is not unusual to experience some student resistance when switching from lecture to active learning. Students may be comfortable learning in a particular way and feel uncomfortable changing that pattern. They may fear they don’t know how to learn in the new environment. The best way to deal with this is to prepare for it ahead of time with strategies that help students feel confident in your teaching approach and trust that you are doing what will best help them learn.
A recent article by Charles Henderson, Raquib Khan and Melissa Dancy surveyed Physics instructors who attempted to incorporate active learning in their teaching.
Most Common Positive Comments
Instructors shared was that their students:
- Felt they were learning more
- Found the class to be more enjoyable
- Liked to interact with others
- Liked the use of technology
- Felt the instructors cared for their learning
- Appreciated that the instructor broke up the lecture
- Liked problem-solving
Most Common Student Complaints
The most common student complaints and resistance to active learning and some ways to address them.
Complaint/Form of Resistance
Students felt instructors were not teaching
"We had to teach ourselves!”
Students do not like to work in class – Some students prefer to sit passively in lecture and do the work on their own outside of class
“I come to lecture to get information, not to work”
Students did not know what to expect from the class
“I’m afraid I won’t do well in this new teaching approach”
Students do not like to interact in class
“I’m an introvert” “I don’t like relying on other people for my learning” “What if I’m stuck with someone who isn’t as smart, driven etc. as I am?”
|Students felt the class was not organized
“My class has been described as ‘disorganized’…”
Consider putting some of this information in your syllabus. Addressing this in the syllabus prepares students for your teaching approach.
First Day of Class
Consider explaining some of this information on the first day of class. Tell them what you will be doing and why you are doing it.
Prepare to reinforce these messages. Once is not enough. Think of this as a vaccine that needs occasional booster shots.
Refer to Past Successes
You may share with them some end-of-term comments from previous students, or even bring in a student from previous terms to talk with them. If this is your first time using these methods share with them the literature that shows this method works. Here is a link to some of the major papers advocating for this method.
Early Term Feedback
Ask for student Feedback early in the term. Ask students what is helping their learning and what could be changed to better help their learning. Respond to this feedback by informing students of the changes you will make and reasons why for the changes you will not make.
Stay confident in the face of resistance. It is easy to begin doubting whether you are doing the right thing, but being prepared for student resistance with strategies that can deflect it should help you continue on the path.
Recognize this as an iterative process. It won’t be perfect the first time around but no teaching is.
Webpage title and content adapted from: Henderson et al., Will my student evaluations decrease if I adopt an active learning instructional strategy? In press (2018).