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Interactive Engagement

Image for IE classroom

Interactive Engagement (IE) is achieved by questioning students or challenging them to think or to do something that requires thought. Students interact with each other, with the instructor as a coach or guide, or with guided materials created by the instructor (on paper or computer). A key ingredient is frequent and thoughtful interaction. Most of the quantitative research in science education regarding the effectiveness of IE in a learning environment comes from the physics community so these results are highlighted here. The references presented were carefully selected to be of generic interest to science teaching and hence are also quite relevant and useful as guidelines for teaching geoscience.

Image for traditional classroom
Hake (2002 ( This site may be offline. ) and 1998) defines:
(a) "Interactive Engagement" (IE) methods as those designed at least in part to promote conceptual understanding through interactive engagement of students in heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually)activities which yield immediate feedback through discussion with peers and/or instructors....

(b) "Traditional" (T) courses as those reported by instructors to make little or no use of IE methods,relying primarily on passive-student lectures, recipe labs, and algorithmic-problem exams.

This figure from Hake's paper graphically compares student performance in IE versus traditional courses and shows significantly larger learning gains for IE type courses relative to traditional courses. (Click thumbnail for larger view.)

Fig. 1. The % vs. % score for 62 courses, enrolling a total of 6542 students. Here, % = %—%, where the angle brackets "<....>" indicate an "average" over all students in the course. Points for high school (HS), college (COLL), and university (UNIV) courses are shown in green for Interactive Engagement (IE) and in red for Traditional (T) courses. The straight negative-slope lines are lines of constant "average normalized gain" . The two dashed purple lines show that most IE courses achieved 's between 0.34 and 0.69. The definition of , and its justification as an index of course effectiveness, is discussed in the text. The average of 's for the 48 IE courses is <<g>> 48IE = 0.48 ??? 0.14 (standard deviation) while the average of 's for the 14 T courses is <<g>> 14T = 0.23 ??? 0.04 (sd). Here, the double angle brackets "<<....>>" indicate an "average of averages." (Same data points and scales as in Fig. 1 of Hake 1998a.)

Used with permission from R.R. Hake

Hake, R.R. 2002. "Lessons from the physics education reform effort." Conservation Ecology 5(2): 28; (available online ( This site may be offline. ) )

New Models of Physics Instruction Based on Physics Education Research: Part 2 (more info) (1996) contrasts IE classroom with traditional classrooms and gives several examples of Interactive Engagement (IE) techniques used in Physics courses. Modeling Methodology for Physics Teachers (more info) (1997) discusses the benefits of using model construction and development in an IE learning framework. Christian and Belloni (2001) describe the use of IE Web based models, simulations, and animations; Novak et al. (1999) describe the use of Just in Time teaching techniques for IE; and Mazur (1997)describes the concept of IE and Peer Instruction. Some examples of IE techniques use in physics education with relevance to geoscience educators include:

These teaching techniques were selected as examples since they directly apply to geosciences as well. Hake (2002) ( This site may be offline. ) also discusses ideas related to the transferability of IE to other disciplines and some precautions one must take in order to implemnt IE successfully.

Redish (2003) also emphasizes classroom structure and the importance of a student-centered approach to the successful implementation of IE learning. Students working in small groups with the instructor moving throughout the classroom is much more amenable to IE than a traditional lecture setting. Although it is possible with individual response systems and peer instruction techniques to create a quality IE environment for larger classes.

Although the above discussion is brief it is hoped that it gives a flavor for IE and references to begin further exploration.


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