Objectives & Strategies

The Active Learning Catalyst project employs an integrated strategy designed to facilitate adoption of active learning pedagogy by STEM faculty by making the process better supported, more attractive, and more comfortable. The program has three high level objectives:

  1. Facilitate the implementation of technologically-enhanced active learning by developing a cohort of six STEM faculty catalysts who will redesign at least one of their own courses and serve as models for other faculty.

    The project PIs recruited six faculty members (one from each NMU STEM department) who expressed strong interest in technologically-enhanced active learning to serve as "Catalysts." Along with the project PIs, these individuals take a leadership role in bringing active learning into NMU STEM courses. They incorporate and assess the effect of active learning in their own courses and develop examples and approaches to technology-enhanced active learning that they will share with colleagues.

    The project provides Catalysts with:

    • Training, including on-campus pedagody workshops, educational technology training, and off-campus conferences.
    • Development time needed to integrate technology-enhanced active learning techniques into their courses.
    • Resources, including articles and other publications about active learning to supplement what faculty learn from formal training opportunities,discipline-specific online resources, and an Active Learning at NMU community with both online and in-person components.
    Catalysts in turn commit to help expand and sustain use of active learning within and outside of NMU STEM courses by sharing ideas and activities in a variety of forums, promoting active learning within their departments and disciplines, and presenting their experiences at conferences.

  2. Establish a student-centered technology-rich studio classroom designed to support active learning pedagogy.

    The project provides faculty with an environment conducive to deploying technology-enhanced active learning strategies. An existing traditional classroom has been renovated into a studio-style classroom that accommodates a high level of student-instructor and student-student interaction (e.g., experiential learning, peer learning, think-pair-share, brainstorming, games, debates, case studies). Details about this classroom are provided in the Facility section of this teaching commons.

  3. Assess the overall and individual impacts of technological tools in an active learning studio classroom on the reform of STEM education.

    The Catalysts project builds on established research that illustrates the value of active learning, studio classrooms, and incorporating technology into both. This project focuses largely on supporting and evaluating faculty adoption of technology-enabled active learning and on providing an appropriate active learning environment. However, it is also important to evaluate the impact that the learning environment has on students.

    This objective represents a preliminary assessment that may generate the opportunity for future projects (e.g., Type II TUES grants). The financial cost of outfitting technology-enabled studio classrooms is significant. Evaluating the overall impact of the technology in the studio classroom will help determine the educational return on this type of investment. This is a timely question for NMU where Jamrich Hall, a primary learning space, is will soon be replaced with a new academic building. Other institutions planning or considering learning space renovations will also value this information. Campus planners who are responsible for the broader incorporation of high-tech studio classrooms during building renovation (or construction) need such data.

    On a finer scale, the project will evaluate the impacts of individual technological tools. Knowing the pedagogical impact of specific tools will help determine whether their benefits justify the cost of including them in future studio classrooms. In the shorter term, results from this evaluation will help faculty who use the studio classroom determine modifications to their teaching plans from semester-to-semester.
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