Strategic Planning Summer Working Group Report
Active Learning & Technology-enhanced Learning Committee
Initial report to the Faculty: August 2015
Section 1: Charge
Identify short and long term goals for active learning and technology-enhanced
instruction on the campus. Develop plans to facilitate curricular improvements where
there are opportunities and in conjunction with the Center for Innovative Teaching &
Learning. Consider to what degree Mines can broadly adopt advanced pedagogy
techniques and how to appropriately value and assess changes in pedagogy from both
student and faculty perspectives.

Section 2: Relationship to Strategic Plan
The Strategic Plan identifies four goals to advance CMS. This Committee’s efforts
directly align to goals 1 and 2, identified below:

Goal 1: Enhance the distinctive identity and reputation of Mines
Identified Strategies Specific to Active Learning & Technology-enhanced Learning
• Expand active-learning instruction (such as studio and project-based, rather than
traditional lecture format) utilizing best-in-class pedagogical and technological
practices.
• Improve and expand opportunities for participation in professional practice and
research throughout the entire undergraduate experience.

Goal 2: Build upon a student-centered campus culture of excellence, inclusion,
diversity and community.

Section 3: Membership
Sam Spiegel, CITL - Chair
Michael Erickson, CCIT
Rene Falconer, Chemistry and Geochemistry
Tracy Gardner, Chemical and Biological Engineering
Gus Greivel, Applied Mathematics and Statistics
William Hoff, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Pat Kohl, Physics
Neal Sullivan, Mechanical Engineering

Section 4: Summary of deliberations
The committee has been charged with developing short- and long-term goals for active
learning and technology-enhanced instruction on this campus. Active learning has come
to mean different things to different people. We have explicitly chosen not to frame this
charge in terms of rigidly defining active learning and developing metrics to track faculty
adherence to this definition. Rather, we frame this charge in terms of overarching
strategic goals. How do we best deliver a superior, distinctive education in a time when
residential universities face intensifying pressure from lower cost alternatives (such as
community colleges and online education)? We believe the most natural answer to this
question will necessarily involve education that is active and/or project-based, assisted
appropriately by technology.
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As a broad definition, Active Learning is an approach to instruction that focuses the
responsibility for learning on the students and requires active cognitive processing. It
can be "anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things
they are doing" (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p. 2). However, the thinking should move
beyond recall of information. Active learning should develop students’ skills, attitudes,
and content knowledge (all three) as they engage in higher-order thinking tasks such as
analysis, synthesis, design, and evaluation. Active learning requires students to do the
cognitive work by writing, discussing, analyzing, and/or solving problems. Actively
learning is one of the features that can make the Mines educational experience unique
and distinctive.

There are numerous instructional approaches and techniques to create active learning in
the classroom. Some of these involve technology, but technology alone is not sufficient
to create active learning. Often in active learning, students are engaged in working in
pairs or small groups. The pairs and group work facilitates talking, reflecting, and
thinking about the content.

Some techniques are fairly simple requiring little time to learn and implement and other
approaches are complex in implementation. The instructional techniques should be
selected based on the learning goals and in consideration of the students and course
context. Passive receipt of information via lecture is not commonly considered active
learning, though lecture (used thoughtfully) can be a component of a successful active
learning course. Some common techniques can be found on the Center for Innovative
Teaching & Learning (CITL) Website (citl.mines.edu).

Why should we utilize active learning in Mines’ courses?

As Mines strives to have distinctive courses and programs of study or degrees, we need
to consider questions such as:
• What is the added value of our courses? In other words, why are our courses
worth the extra money? How are they superior to lower cost alternatives (i.e.,
online courses, Khan Academy Courses, CC courses)?
• How do we strengthen the learning experience for our students to ensure they
graduate as strong creative thinkers, able to not only join the workforce as
prepared professionals, but able to become leaders in their STEM fields?
• How do I organize my class to be most efficient, making the best use of limited
contact time?

Active learning addresses these questions. Numerous studies have shown the positive
impact of active learning on faculty productivity, student performance and student
learning. Well-designed and implemented courses that are predominately organized
around active learning are distinctive and often perceived to be of value.

Technology-enhanced learning is the use of instructional technology in, or as part of, a
course in such a manner as to enhance or improve the learning. The instructional
technology may be used by the instructor (e.g., showing a video, demonstrating a
simulation) or by the student directly (e.g., watching a video, engaging with a simulation,
using a clicker). Technology-enhanced learning can be implemented in support of active
learning.

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The Committee has agreed to focus our efforts around the use of instructional
technology as part of a face-to-face course, and to reserve discussion of fully on-line
courses for another time or committee.

Why should we utilize technology-enhanced learning in Mines’ courses?
Please note that we do not endorse adding technology to the classroom for its own sake.
Technology-enhanced learning involves the deliberate use of technology to advance
course goals. These goals may include (but are not limited to):
• Engaging more of the students present
• Providing course content outside of contact time
• Helping with difficult-to-visualize concepts
• Giving students direct experience with relevant technological platforms in the
presence of instructors and TAs who have expertise with these platforms and
can apprentice students in the best use of the technology

Teaching and research are in support of the University’s mission – they also
support each other

The university's teaching mission is not, and should not be thought of, as in conflict with
the university's research mission. For example, mentoring significant numbers of
undergraduates in research or senior capstone projects requires active learning. Active
learning builds students’ abilities to critically analyze, design, question, and articulate
ideas – active learning develops future researchers. Additionally, strong researchers
have insights into the fields that should be shared with and valued by undergraduates.
Several Universities establish positions of high prestige that support senior researchers
to teach undergraduate courses. These positions are viewed as honored positions that
only faculty who excel in both teaching and research can achieve.

Section 5: Recommendations

The committee has developed initial recommendations for faculty and for administration.
They are presented organized by the two categories. We welcome feedback and
additional suggestions from faculty. We will continue to explore and refine these
recommendations across the next few months.

Recommendations for Faculty:
1. Start simple – learn about the simple active learning approaches and implement
a few. Contact CITL for support.

2. Become a reflective practitioner - intentionally focus on ways to enhance learning
through active learning in your courses.

3. Encourage other faculty to use Active Learning.

4. Take advantage of opportunities to learn about new pedagogies
a. Contact CITL to learn about being more efficient in your classroom by
using Active Learning
b. Attend pedagogy seminars
c. Join PLCs or a Teaching Triangle
d. Request conference funds to attend conferences that focus on pedagogy
e. Learn about resources available at Mines – e.g., InkSurvey
(ticc.mines.edu)

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5. Work with administration to help refine and align policies with intended teaching
practices. In other words, become part of the solution. Help identify areas that
need to be strengthened and help share success stories.

6. Do not view teaching and research as conflicting interests. Learn to be efficient in
both and how to use one to build the other.

Recommendations for Administration:
1. Provide support and encouragement for faculty so they can learn how to use
Active Learning in efficient ways. This support might include:
a. Departments and Colleges should schedule pedagogy events in
conjunction with CITL to highlight approaches and tools in a focused
approach (e.g., using clickers and giving faculty each a clicker, facilitating
discussion in lecture, quick assessing techniques).
b. Invest in technology infrastructure and staff to provide the resources and
support needed for new instructional approaches. For instance, CSM
needs to invest in video hosting, on-demand streaming, for instructional
videos so they are compatible within the LMS (BlackBoard) and
accessible for all faculty. Increase CITL staff to provide additional
supports to faculty such as instructional design specialists, video support,
and additional pedagogical support.
c. Faculty should be offered service credit (or release from other service
responsibilities) for specific tasks related to advancing the quality of
instruction in their department. These may include actively participating in
a Professional Learning Community or Teaching Triangle, significant
revisions or new course development in collaboration with CITL, targeted
research and reporting on existing pedagogical innovations, and so on.

2. Each department should develop a small number of 'starter courses' that can be
taught comfortably by new faculty. These starter courses could have clear and
detailed notes and schedules, well-written homework sets and solutions, and
banks of appropriate supplementary materials like projects, in-class activities, or
clicker questions. The intent would be for new faculty to be able to be
shepherded into good teaching practices without severe demands on their time.


3. Having a single data point is problematic in assessment and evaluation.
Numerical teaching evaluations have been shown to depend significantly on
unintentional factors such as instructor popularity and expected student
grade. Also, it has been widely documented that new modes of instruction
frequently cause dips in numerical scores, incentivizing faculty to maintain the
status quo. Thus, we recommend that the university de-emphasize (but not
remove) these numerical scores during evaluation of teaching for promotion,
tenure, and awards. We further recommend that faculty be encouraged and/or
required to provide qualitative data on their teaching. For example, one might
have the FDR template include the line "Describe the manner in which your
courses have added to the distinctiveness of the Mines degree. In what fashion
and to what extent do your courses provide benefits that could not be easily
matched online or at lower-cost institutions?" The intent here is to still hold
faculty accountable for advancing the school's educational mission, while giving
them more flexibility in how they advance that mission.

4. CITL should expand the resources available to faculty such as a set of online
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examples, both of good teaching practices on campus and of the processes that
people have followed to learn what practices to use. For instance, how
productive discourse is promoted to engage students and advance their thinking
in physics studio; adaptations general chemistry faculty have made to the course
design to facilitate active learning; how faculty members have formed Teaching
Triangles to learn from each other and study their own teaching practices; and
the other various ways CSM faculty have begun to enhance learning.

5. Both teaching and research should be honored at CSM and a plan should be
established to encourage faculty to connect and build on both.


Section 6: Next steps
This report reflects the early work of this committee. The committee will gather faculty
input during Faculty Conference. The input will guide refinement of the
recommendations and next steps. Further efforts will be made to specifically develop
plans to facilitate curricular improvements where there are opportunities and in
conjunction with the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning. These plans will be
shared with focus groups consisting of instructors and administrators.

As the plans are being developed and through conversations with the focus groups, the
committee will develop more specific recommendations as to the degree Mines can
broadly adopt advanced pedagogy techniques. The recommendations will consider how
to appropriately value and assess changes in pedagogy from both student and faculty
perspectives.

Section 7: Resources/references consulted

Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. University of Michigan.. Found at:
http://www.crlt.umich.edu/tstrategies/tsal
Cornell University Center for Teaching & Learning. Found at:
http://www.cte.cornell.edu/teaching-ideas/engaging-students/active-learning.html
Fink, L.D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning experiences: An integrated approach to
designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Prince, M. (2004). Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. Journal of
Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.
Sawyer, R.K. (Ed.), (2009). Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. New York,
NY: Cambridge University Press.


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