I try to incorporate elements of active learning into all courses that I teach
I believe that:
1) A welcoming, supportive, and collaborative environment sets the stage for learning
2) Serving diverse learning styles enhances cognition and best achieves learning goals
3) Coursework that transcends the subject cultivates well-rounded world citizens
For Example, for the learning goal: Apply the fire behavior triangle (fuel, weather, and topography) and Predict the implications of fire suppression, small groups of students are assigned a target fire severity, and build an experimental "forest" on a numbered matchstick board, above. They present their predictions about fire severity, flame length, and rate of spread to their classmates. Finally, we test the hypothesis as I safely set the forest alight, all students observe what happens. We then discuss which match boards best match historic and modern forest photos and predict how fire suppression impacts forest density and subsequent fire severity. Students use what they've learned about fire physics, indulge their curiosity, use the scientific method, practice public speaking, and connect the material to current events in politics and the news. Perhaps this lesson even impacts their decision on how to vote regarding fire suppression and prescribed fire.
I invited Dr. Anu Kramer to give a guest lecture to the 75 students in my UW-Madison course "Natural Hazards and Disasters." The topic was Wildfire: Behavior, History, and Management. Anu delivered a truly engaging and very well organized lecture, conveying key content about wildfire through a balance of clear, concise delivery with structured active learning in the form of several small group discussion periods. She also provided relevant video/reading material beforehand with guiding questions so that students came prepared to knowledgeably discuss and learn. Her expertise and confidence with the material was obvious and her pacing was spot-on. She did a great job introducing the key points, guiding the class through them, and reinforcing them at the end. By including both recent events (the Santa Rosa fires) and her own personal experience, she brought immediacy to the subject. It was clear that students were engaged throughout the 75 minute class. Feedback from several students afterward was very positive. Throughout, Anu demonstrated the kind of best practices in teaching that I wish all instructors would use. Based on this interaction, I would wholeheartedly recommend her for teaching at the college & university level.
~ Dr. Harold Tobin
Professor of Geoscience at University of Wisconsin-Madison
November 11, 2017