Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
Representing the 99%!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Learning Experience at Champlain College - Lennoxville By Steven Baldwin & Brigitte Barbe Letourneau

The purpose of this research is to see if professors at Champlain College Lennoxville use more active teaching methods than passive teaching methods. We surveyed thirty (30) teachers in total. We hypothesized that teachers engage students more and hence were likely to use active teaching methods. We compiled data about their results and gave values to each method to use in a correlation. Long answer questions allowed teachers to personally tell us what they regarded as important, what they regarded as not important and why. We conducted several calculations based on data from the survey. A correlation showed an extremely low negative correlation between methods used and their importance.

Teaching  methods vary from teacher to teacher, some teachers are taught to omit certain ways of conveying content and have little variation in their methods, not straying from their comfort zone. We wanted to look at the different types of teaching methods employed by professors, if their methods were considered more actively based, by making students engage in the learning process, and making them think critically about the subject; or in contrast if they are more passively based enforcing memorization of subject material rather than understanding. Examples of a passive teaching method would be PowerPoint lectures with note taking, or multiple choice questions on exams. Little understanding is necessary as the students only need to memorize data and reproduce it on exams. Our research indicates that teachers at Champlain College Lennoxville use active teaching methods and prefer to use them because it stimulates their students, engages them and promotes critical thinking about class content.

Student Engagement in Blended Learning Environments

Pic © EdEqual.com
In Ömer Delialioğlu's (2012) study, he used students in their third year of a computer networking course and divided the course into two sections. The first eight weeks of the course the instructor used the lecture-based method which consisted of presentations, examples, quizzes, assigned reading, meetings with the instructor twice a week and would get students to participate through questions and answers during lectures (p. 314). Then, for the next eight weeks the instructor would change teaching methods to problem-based teaching methods which consist of case studies on the week’s content, student group work of two to discuss the case and to resolve it with a written statement every two weeks (p. 314).

The study was done twice, once in spring 2008 and the other in spring 2009. It demanded students to voluntarily participate (p. 312-313). During this time the students were surveyed three times. The first was for the “entry survey” which determined the eligibility of the candidates, their gender, etc. The second and third survey were “engagement surveys” that used a “t-test” to calculate motivation and a grade point average (GPA) which evaluated students’ technical skills (p. 316). The second survey was given after the first eight weeks (at the end of the lecture-based method) and the third was given at the end of the next eight weeks (at the end of the problem-based method). Both “engagement surveys” were created by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Furthermore, in 2008 there were 38 students and in 2009 55 students that were surveyed for a total of 93 students, however, by the end of all surveys only 89 students did all of them (p. 313).

Pic © Ade Tari
Delialioğlu (2012) states that since his study was done through a “single group repeated measure design” the study is inconclusive from the data collected (p. 316). This is because there is little difference between the lecture-based and problem-based teaching method within the data that was collected. However, we do see that the problem-based method had better results. But because the problem-based teaching method was done after the lecture-based method it is impossible to determine whether it is because of the teaching method in question or because of the previous teaching method, thus lecture-based method (p. 317). This article has helped draw links between lecture-based and problem-based teaching methods in relationship to our study; passive and active teaching methods. Overall, it describes passive teaching methods as lectures, the use of PowerPoint, individual work, note taking exercises, quizzes and reading assignments. Active teaching methods as group work, case studies and class discussions. Furthermore, this article demonstrated to not use Delialioğlu (2012) approach when conducting an experiment and/or surveys. Therefore, we will survey the professors instead to have their opinions on active and passive teaching methods. Moreover, by getting insight from professors with years of experience it will allow us to better understand the differences between active and passive methods and their projected effects on their students.

Student Reciprocal Peer Teaching as a Method for Active Learning

Pic © edtechpd.sdcoe.net
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the use of peers as teachers for one another and how this method of active learning produces higher grades as a result, than regular classroom learning utilizing theory alone. They conducted a laboratory experiment that used 181 students. Some students were used as peer laboratory monitors in an electrical engineering class. The study was held at the Technical University of Madrid, Spain. The laboratory sessions worked on top of regular theoretical work they had previously done at home or in the classroom, using lectures and “answering comprehension questions… considered passive learning” (Mun˜oz-Garcı´a, et al., 2013). The students were divided into groups for the laboratory experiment where one was appointed as a “laboratory monitor” defined “here as a student selected to be partially responsible for directing his or her fellow students in the laboratory” (Mun˜oz-Garcı´a, et al., 2013). The experiment was set up as follows:
  1. Prior to each laboratory session, all students took an examination to test their comprehension of the part of the course related to the laboratory.
  2. Those students who passed the exam had the opportunity to become laboratory monitors during the next session.
  3. Before becoming monitors, the selected students were trained by the professor to help the rest of the students. The professor was present in order to monitor the students’ performance. 
(Mun˜oz-Garcı´a, et al., 2013)

The peer teaching system they used was considered to be very helpful to the students, to those who conducted the experiments and the monitors alike. Attention levels were higher when the monitors would tell them how the laboratory was going to work. The results of the final exams for each engineering class showed an increase in marks obtained by practical laboratory experiments as compared to theory alone. It should be noted that there were health and safety concerns with the experiment due to the use of electricity. In some experiments of this type a professional is required to be present at all times.

Pic © Author Unknown

This literature relates to our hypothesis because it demonstrates how active learning is an effect tool. Active learning is superior to that of lecture based passive learning. The results shown in figure 1 support the argument that active learning is by far more effective as it engages students, forces participation and induces critical thinking to solve problems because of the experimental design used. Experiments and simulation exercises were not commonly chosen as forms of teaching methods by the teachers we surveyed however, this how how useful the aspect is to the learning process when circumstances allow for it.

Materials and Methods

The method used to create this study is a survey questionnaire. We surveyed 30 teachers about their teaching methods. We started out with judgement sampling method, we chose a few of our teachers due to previously having a good rapport with them. We did do this to create a bias towards one side of our argument. We were unbiased in our selection of who top ask nor did we manipulate how many we got to participate from each department. The survey was composed of 22 participants, however approximately 15 were used in our data analysis. The survey asked professors for their departments and years of experience teaching. This was used to see the frequency of departments and years of experiences for the professors surveyed in hopes that we were able to get a fairly random distribution.

Pic © vitalflux.com
There were about 15 questions that were used in the data analysis, a few questions were disposed of due to various reasons discussed later. We provided a fairly large list of teaching methods, although not all methods that exist were present. We feel that we covered most methods that are widely used in schools. The list consisted of lectures, group work, PowerPoint presentations, individual work, in class exercises, invitation of questions from students, class discussions, and note taking exercises, simulation and experiments including laboratory experiments, problem solving activities, case-based scenarios and other use of technology.

Pic © Arts.Gov
For one question we asked teachers to circle all of the methods they use in their classes. The following question asked teachers to rank the aforementioned teaching methods by their importance ranging from 1 being most important to 12 being least important. We then divided the methods into two lists, one that was more prone to be used in passive learning and one that was more actively based. We omitted two results from each list and made our calculation with four from each side. We calculated a correlation between the methods teachers use and the methods they ranked as important, this would tell us if there was a relationship between what they use to teach and what they would like to use to teach, as there is no need to rank your own methods as more important.

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Our next questions asked professors why they chose their first option and how they apply it in their class followed by why they chose their least important method and asked why it was unimportant. The next question after that asked professors if there were aspects of their teaching style they would like to change and what they would like to change specifically. If they did not feel they needed to change anything they were asked to explain why. Ensued were questions about absenteeism that we omitted in our results and calculations because they proved to be irrelevant as we will discuss later. The last set of questions was a five-choice Likert Scale. Professors were asked to rate 11 questions based on how strongly they agreed with a statement, the frequency of a particular event, and the importance of certain statements and scenarios.

How to use a Likert Scale for Student Surveys
Pic © Jon Corippo
We omitted a few questions based on their inutility and two of the questions were negatively based to make sure they were being properly considered. Two of the questions we considered more important were if they believed lecturing produced higher levels of academic success and if they used active teaching methods in their class. We took an average of each question’s answer to see how strongly professors believe on average that lecturing produces better results and how often they use what they consider active methods.


The results for our long answer questions proved unsurprising. Question seven asked professors why they chose the method they regard as most important. When professors used certain keywords like student engagement, critical thinking, hands-on, applied theory, etc… we associated them to the creation of an active learning environment. 16 out of 26 professors claimed to be teaching actively. On the other hand, some professors admitted that passive teaching, such as using PowerPoint presentations was convenient. This was in part due to large classes or simply in lieu of ease of transmitting the required material to a class.  6 out of 26 professors claimed to use passive methods. An unexpected result came from a few teachers who claimed to have a good balance of the two methods. We called this an active approach to passive methods as some would incorporate in class exercises and group discussions as well as individual learning of the subject after a PowerPoint presentation and lecture.

How You Can Improve Your Presentation Skills in 8 Easy Steps!
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Due to its nature, PowerPoint presentations coupled with various activities set in place to engage students can arguably reinforce course content and should be viewed as a category apart. However, when calculating the results we included it in the active learning side because it prevalently shows how they can use certain passive methods work in their advantage to be active. 3 out of 26 students professors claimed to use this active approach to passive methods. With 1 out of 26 surveys discarded and not counted towards any calculations. For the question that followed asking teachers why they chose their least important method, it was almost unanimous because of the irrelevance to their course material. Few professors strayed from that answer, but others included that it would be time consuming, a general dislike of, less efficient and one professor claimed that all were equally important for different disciplines. 19 out of 26 professors claimed the method they chose was irrelevant. 1 out of 16 claimed equality. 4 out of 26 had different reasons (listed above). 1 out of 26 had no answer and 1 out of 26 was discarded.

Data Analysis

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We then analyzed question 5 from the survey which ask the surveyors to circle all teaching methods that they use in their classes out of a list of 12. Among the 12 teaching methods listed were 8 active teaching methods and 4 passive teaching methods that were randomly assorted. For every active method selected we gave one point and for every passive method selected we subtracted one point. The fact that there were more active teaching methods listed over passive teaching methods did not unbalance our results because teachers were not obligated to select all of the methods but only the ones that applied to them. We graph the results and created a legend. As our legend illustrates, it explains that any number lower than one represents the use of passive teaching methods, 0 is neutral as the surveyor does not use more active or passive teaching methods and 1 or higher represents that the surveyor prefers to use more active methods. The results conclude that at Champlain College Lennoxville teachers use more active teaching methods over passive teaching methods as only 12% of all teachers surveyed used balanced of active and passive teaching methods or used more passive teaching methods.

We analyzed the Likert scale which are questions 12 to 22 of our survey. Only 2.18% of professors surveyed thought active learning and teaching as least important while 14.18% thought no importance to active learning and teaching. Note that 48.73% thought that active learning and teaching was very important. Additionally, when adding all percentages of professors surveyed that attributed importance to active learning and teaching it shows that 76.73% of all surveyed teachers regarded active learning and teaching as being important. Therefore, according to our results we can conclude that teachers at Champlain College Lennoxville see active learning and teaching as critical to one’s education.

Pic © Author Unknown
We chose four passive teaching methods and four active teaching methods at random for this calculation. We gave each method a value, for questions 5 we added one point for active methods and subtracted one point for passive. For question 6 we associated the value they gave the methods from 1 to 12. We calculated the amount of points awarded for active methods and subtracted the points awarded for passive methods. We then correlated these values with the values from question 5. We found an extremely low negative correlation between the two; meaning that teachers claim they use passive methods but claim higher importance for active methods. The correlation value is -0.14. This value is so low that we cannot determine that they do not use more active teaching methods as the value is so close to 0 there is hardly any correlation at all between the two variables. This does not relate well with the questions concerning how they apply their first choice in their classes as most professors claimed to use more active teaching methods. The question regarding the change in their teaching methods showed that almost all of the professors wanted to incorporate more active methods into their classes, added group discussions, engage students more with promoting questions, etc. A few professors claimed to have already changed their methods recently and were either waiting to see if it was a success or claim it is already successful.

Discussions and Conclusions

Theree's Always One...
Pic © Phukett Finance
We faced a few difficulties during our research. Some professors who accepted to participate in the survey did not complete it. Had we been able to start this from the beginning of the semester when professors were not as busy we could have had a higher success rate with the number of surveys completed. We originally had 30 but would have benefitted from having more. In the end we managed to obtain 26 completed surveys. However, we decided to omit 1 survey out of the 26 because we felt it wasn’t filled out professionally. Thus, we were left with only 25 surveys to calculate our data with.

We do believe that we had an overall success with our survey despite the omission of several questions. The results show that professors at Champlain College Lennoxville do indeed participate in the act of active teaching methods and highly value and regard them as more important than passive teaching methods. They want to engage students and help them think critically about the subject. Participation in class is important as well. However, in retrospect, there should be a bigger sample pool. We could also create an experimental classroom where two different groups are taught a subject. One with active methods and the other with passive methods. We could then wait a given amount of time and test students to see the results. Then, we could survey students to see which method they preferred and if they personally thought it was more important and effective than the other.


Delialioğlu, Ö. (2012). Student Engagement in  Blended Learning Environments with Lecture Based and Problem-Based Instructional Approaches. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15 (3). p.p. 310-322 

Mun˜oz-Garcı´a, Miguel A., Moreda, Guillermo  P., Herna´ndez-Sa´nchez, Natalia., and Valin˜o, Vanesa. (2013). Student Reciprocal Peer Teaching as a Method for Active Learning: An Experience in an Electrotechnical Laboratory. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 22(5), p.p. 729-734

About The Authors

Steven Baldwin & Brigitte Barbe Letourneau is presently studying Bishop's University, located in Quebec, Canada.. The Learning Experience at Champlain College - Lennoxville  was written as part of an assignment for Integrated Methodology (IM) in the Department of Social Sciences at Champlain College Lennoxville located in Quebec, Canada.

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