Using Active Learning Strategies in the Classroom: The Effect on Knowledge and Student Engagement in Learning

Tuesday, 13 July 2010: 4:05 PM

Anne Marie Krouse, PhD, MBA, RN
Nursing, Widener University, Chester, PA

To meet the needs of today’s students, higher education must shift from content focused, instructor-centered teaching/learning approaches to a constructivist, learner-centered approach with an emphasis on understanding and constructing knowledge.  The use of discovery methods, active engagement, and learning strategies tailored to individual student needs is required.  This research explored the use of technology to encourage active learning and an assessment of student learning style, engagement, perceptions of active learning, knowledge acquisition, and retention.
            A quasi-experimental comparative study of two groups (N =111) of students in the same class level was conducted to study knowledge acquisition and retention.  The control group was taught using primarily lecture.  The experimental group was taught using active learning strategies.  Exam scores were compared using t-tests to examine differences in knowledge acquisition.  Content specific scores on an end of program standardized exam were also compared using t-tests to examine knowledge retention.  Student learning styles were described across both groups using the Solomon and Felder Index of Learning Styles Instrument. 
A descriptive mixed-method approach was used to assess student engagement in the experimental group.  Student engagement was measured using the Classroom Survey of Student Engagement (CLASSE).  The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics.  Additionally, qualitative data from students in the experimental group were obtained employing an on-line survey using open-ended questions to examine student perceptions of the active learning strategies that were used in the class.
            While no differences were found in knowledge acquisition and retention between the two groups, many students stated that they felt that the active learning strategies enhanced their learning while others were resistant to the changes in the course delivery methods.  The results of the CLASSE revealed that most students were actively engaged in the course.