Improving an existing master course by implementing variety of teaching techniques
Paper i proceeding, 2013
The teaching should not be only about lecturing while students only listen and memorize, but about students participating actively in lectures by reflecting upon and commenting on what they are learning. Active learning is simply engaging students in thinking about and discussing what has been lectured (Stanford, 1993). There are numerous tasks that could be introduced during a lecture to create active learning, such as: ask them a question, give a small task for individual or group work, show some material/movie that they should comment, etc (Felder and Brent, 2003).
Freight Transport Systems is a course as a part of Chalmers international master program, attended by approximately 60 students. With such a big class it was very hard to activate students, to involve them in discussion, either during the lectures or presentations of assignments. Therefore the aim of this project is to make students more active and to improve the course by introducing variety of teaching techniques such as seminars, structured small group discussions, guest lectures, study visits, as well as digital media such as subject related short films as a break from lecturing. These changes should make the lectures more interesting and more stimulating, i.e. make students more active in the classroom and consequently the learning should be improved.
This study has action research approach, which is considered to be particularly useful for practicing educators (Costello, 2011) since this approach allows systematic reflection, enquiry and action. The core of action research is to bring change as a part of the research act (Brydon-Miller et al., 2003) and that was the main mission of this project: to research about possibilities for the course improvement to test them and apply those that were evaluated as appropriate. As in every action research study the results should be used for action and the results of this project have already caused certain actions and enabled certain decisions for improvement.
Applied teaching techniques were evaluated twice, midterm and upon the completion of the course. The results of the evaluation showed that the students appreciate this variety of teaching techniques to a great extent, more than 80% of students were very positive about the new teaching techniques. Furthermore, the final exam results proved increased learning compared to the previous year; the average grade for the course increased from 4,02 in 2010 to 4,46 in 2011.
This paper starts with the background information on the Freight transport course followed by literature review on various teaching techniques. Action research approach is briefly described since the same is used for this project. Furthermore, application of different teaching techniques and their evaluations is presented and analysed. Finally, the conclusions are drawn from the project’s results as well as some suggestions for the upcoming work on the course development.