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Increasing the effectiveness of active learning

Writing in the Physical Review Physics Education Research,  Kristina Callaghan and colleagues show how active learning can be enhanced through homework.  Their work is entitled  "Increasing the effectiveness of active learning using deliberate practice: a homework transformation.” This Is an Editor’s suggestion in the current issue of this journal and is their third education research publication since 2019!



Abstract: We show how learning can be improved, beyond that shown in actively taught classrooms, by also transforming the homework using the principles of deliberate practice. We measure the impact of transforming the homework on student learning in a course that had already implemented an active approach to teaching in class. We compare performance on the same final exam in equivalent cohorts of students over three semesters of an introductory physics course: the first taught with traditional lectures and traditional homework, the second taught with active instruction coupled with traditional homework, and the last taught with both active instruction and transformed homework. We find students in the semester where both active teaching and transformed homework are used scored significantly higher on the final exam than the students taught actively but with traditional homework. This learning gain achieved by transforming the homework is comparable to that achieved by replacing traditional lectures with active teaching strategies in class. We further show the positive effects of transforming the homework on student learning through a shorter, controlled experiment. When everything but the homework implementation is controlled, students scored 5%–10% higher on a test of learning following transformed homework compared with traditional homework. This significant improvement to learning occurs despite students spending a similar amount of time on task. This study represents an initial step towards understanding how deliberate practice can be extended to improve pedagogy beyond what happens in the classroom to the out-of-class homework.