Monday, 20 July 2015

sources of student resistance to active learning

This article from by Seidel and Tanner in CBE-LSE is an interesting analysis of research into student resistance over the use or introduction of innovative  teaching strategies (i.e. active learning). Seems that it is not resistance to the active learning strategy itself but rather barriers that may develop as a result of instructors struggling to implement the strategy. These barriers may include unintentional actions on the part of the instructor such as being late to class, or not having instructional materials adequately prepared for class. Students take this as an indication of the quality of the learning strategy itself rather than the quality of its implementation.

Some techniques to alleviate student barriers to innovative teaching:
  1. Explain why using a particular strategy at the start and at different times throughout the course. 
  2. Share the research with students that illustrates its efficacy. 
  3. Structure the course such that inter-student interactions are thought by students to be fair. For example, provide a mechanism for peer evaluation. 
  4. Instructors need to be present to students. Ensure that your interactions with students inside and outside the classroom are affirming, genuine and occur on a daily basis. Don't hide behind the lecture podium. 
  5. Make marking and grading transparent by, for example, providing the markng rubric at the time an assignment is assigned or when an exam is returned. 
  6. Vary the instructional strategies used throughout the term to appeal to a wider cross-section of students.
The article also provides some suggestions for how to deal with student resistance when it does arise.


Seidel, S.B. and Tanner, K D. (2013). “What if students revolt?”—Considering student resistance: origins, options and opportunities for investigation. Cell Biology Education—Life Sciences Education, 12 (Winter), 586-595.