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Using active learning strategies to shift student attitudes and behaviours about learning and teaching in a research intensive educational context

Paul J White, Ian Larson, Kim Styles, Elizabeth Yuriev, Darrell R Evans, Jennifer L Short, Patangi K Rangachari, Daniel T Malone, Briana Davie, Som Naidu, Nicole Eise

Abstract

Background: Active learning strategies were used to shift student attitudes and behaviours about learning and teaching in a research intensive Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at a large Australian University. Principles and active learning strategies were developed and tested in discrete content sections during the pilot phase, and then implemented for all students in first and second year units the following two years.

Method: The impact of the approach on student perceptions of active learning, attendance in face-to-face classes and performance in exams were evaluated.

Results: The majority of students perceived that active learning improved their understanding of content, developed skills in critical thinking and communication, and corrected misconceptions. Nevertheless, 53% of students felt they “learnt better” in traditional lectures than with active learning during the pilot phase. After strategies to improve student understanding of the generic skill benefit of active learning were implemented, this proportion fell to 34% in year one of implementation and 15% in year two. Students who reported that they “learnt better in traditional lectures” valued clear content presentation, whilst students who disagreed with this statement valued communication and critical thinking skills development and problem solving. Student attendance was 73% higher in active learning units than untransformed units during the implementation phase.

Conclusion: The use of a coordinated and strategic approach to implement active learning led to positive changes in student attitudes to their learning and associated behaviours. 


Keywords

Active Learning, Student Perception, Pharmacy Education, Attendance, Engagement


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