Designing Hands-on Activities for Large Classes in Unconventional Spaces

TitleDesigning Hands-on Activities for Large Classes in Unconventional Spaces
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2018
AuthorsRobinson, M., E. Li, J. Moll, and C. Newton
Conference NameUW Teaching and Learning Conference
Conference LocationWaterloo

Motivating students, especially in required courses that are not directly related to their major, is a challenge. This challenge exists in all areas of study, but especially when trying to encourage engagement with active learning activities. Active learning is a common solution to this problem and well explained in many sources [1,2]. Factors in designing an activity, such as clearly stating the intended learning outcomes and providing just the right amount of information, while still allowing students the freedom to explore and take risks, will be considered in this presentation.

Understanding the key elements that lead to a successful activity is important, especially when the activities involve physical artifacts in a science or engineering context. Additional considerations include giving students the opportunity to make mistakes (often analogous to making a mess) in a safe environment, to be challenged at a level appropriate to their skill level to promote engagement and to build self-confidence, and to connect concepts from class to real-world applications.

Attendees to this session will see portions of the original 90-minute chemistry activity demonstrated, which was performed by over 200 first-year Mechatronics Engineering students, at the same time in a non-laboratory space, in October 2017 as part of “Tron Days”. The creators of the activity will unpack key considerations in designing it, such as connections to bottleneck concepts in the course, program graduate attributes, safety, cost, available space, support staff, time and fun. Student feedback, including post-survey responses, from the activity will be shared.


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