A Survey of Active Learning Techniques in a Large non-majors Environmental Science Course.

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm TSU - Humphries: 118
Poster Session Part of Friday


Erica Bigio, University of Nevada-Reno
Active learning is a growing theme in undergraduate education, and professors often incorporate a variety of active learning techniques into large and small courses. In a large environmental science course for non-majors, I implemented several techniques to review course concepts and increase student engagement during lectures. These included think-pair-share discussions, handouts to review concepts, along with higher-stakes group activities (6 students) aimed at interpretation of scientific data. Students also submitted answers (2 -3 sentences) to open-ended questions posed during lecture through the Learning Management Software. The questions asked students about personal views on environmental issues (e.g., land management policy, climate change impacts), but also directly assessed understanding of course content. Despite very low-stakes reward, students shared both personal anecdotes and thoughtful analysis of course content, indicating strong engagement in the material. These answers contrasted student participation in class discussions, which was limited to a few dominant talkers. Student feedback showed positive attitudes towards reflection answers and individual handouts, but were less favorable towards group activities. Limitations to all techniques included time for review and feedback, coordination between LMS and paper handouts, and a lecture auditorium that prevented movement to all students during active learning sessions.