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October 03, 2007

"Quick thinks" for active learning

A leading communication objective for scholars is to persuade; another is to inform. Often the goal of informing is to make the audience aware: I have a new result, it is interesting, go read the paper to learn the details (the typical 15 minute conference presentation, for example). Sometimes of course, we want our audience to learn more deeply.

Though I mostly intend this blog to focus on scholarly activities other than classroom teaching, the line between classroom teaching and communicating our research ideas is blurry, to say the least. Yesterday I read a good 1997 essay aimed at classroom teachers; I'm reporting it here because I don't want to forget its advice, and because techniques to increase active learning are useful in seminars, conferences, and even in written scholarly communication (though the techniques need modification for different contexts).

Suzanne Johnston and Jim Cooper wrote about "Quick-thinks: The Interactive Lecture" (in the Cooperative Learning and College Teaching newsletter Vol. 8, no. 1 (Fall 1997)). They offer a good summary of then current research on the importance of active learning in the classroom, for those not already familiar with the ideas and their empirical support. Then they offer eight "quick-think" strategies, particularly for large audiences for which it is difficult to engage in whole-group discussion or even to break out into small groups:


  1. Select the best response (multiple choice)
  2. Correct the (intentional) error
  3. Complete a sentence starter
  4. Compare or contrast (two important parallel concepts from the lesson)
  5. Support a statement
  6. Re-order the (jumbled) steps (when teaching a procedure)
  7. Reach a conclusion (from proposed facts, assumptions, opinions)
  8. Paraphrase the idea

Via the Tomorrow's Professor (SM) mailing list (2 Oct 2007); all entries are archived (with a two-week delay).

Posted by jmm at October 3, 2007 08:33 AM

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