I created this activity as a way to get the class involved in creating new, fun ways to teach course concepts (selfishly- that part is for me) and for students to review concepts prior to the final exam (for them). Students use a template to create a 15-20 min activity that can be used in groups during class to teach a concept we have learned during the semester. We then randomly assign the activities and students work in groups to complete them and provide feedback.
The benefits are twofold:
1. My class is about 100-150 students per semester. This means that each semester I have a large number of new activities (that I didn't have to make!) to use as a starting point in future semesters as I work to create a more active classroom.
2. The students get a review of the topic they have chosen for their activity, plus, they get to review additional topics from completing and providing feedback on two activities from their peers.
I have run this assignment for three semesters now. It has been a favorite of my students since the beginning! I have received a number of activities that I now use in class to teach topics!
A student should be able to
- Create a lesson plan on an inorganic topic that incorporates active learning
- Demonstrate understanding of chosen topic via an accurate lesson plan key
- Review multiple inorganic topics through completion of lesson plans from classmates
- Provide constructive feedback on classmates’ completed lesson plans
Since this can be used for any level or any topic, there are plenty of variations you can try! Some things to consider:
1. You can allow students to select any topic from the entire semester for their activity- this can be helpful prior to a final exam when you want a comprehensive review. You can also restrict topics if you have areas that you feel your students need to focus on or if you want to assign this before a specific exam. One of my students also suggested having a sign up sheet for topics on a first-come, first-served basis so that you don't end up with 20 balancing redox reactions and zero crystal field splitting.
2. I have tried students designing plans individually and also working in partners to create acitivties (both outside of class). Both methods worked well, but in a class of 150, that many individual submissions to grade was a bit overwhelming!
3. The peer review was new this semester (based on a previous student suggestion). My original plan was have them use a recitation section to work in groups through randomly assgined activities. Due to COVID, they completed the activites on their own- they enjoyed it, but the group experience would ave been more fun.
4. Depending on your timing, you could have them go through the peer review process and then give them a chance to revise the activity based on the feedback prior to you grading it.
5. The student reflection questions are given as a survey on Canvas after they have completed both the lesson plan and the peer review process.
I use the rubric provided, combined with the peer review feedback (due to COVID, they did not have the chance to revise after the peer review process). Students must also upload a key with their activity which allows me to catch any misconceptions or inaccuracies in their understanding of the material.
I assigned points as following:
Assignment/Key: See above rubric
Reflection: Worth 5 points total- while mostly graded on completion, I did want to be sure my students were providing more useful feedback than 1 word answers so I gave them the rubric below. (pretty much everyone got a 5)
What did you learn from completing this assignment? (i.e. What do you feel that you gained from completing it?)
What did you learn from completing other students' assignments?
What are your thoughts for improving the active learning lesson plan assignment in future iterations? You may answer this referring to your specific lesson plan or this actual assignment of creating a lesson plan.
Meets all criteria at a high level, all questions are thoughtfully addressed
Meets some criteria, some questions are not addressed or non-thoughtful response provided
Meets few criteria, most questions not addressed or responses do not demonstrate thought
Peer Review: Spring 2020 was my first time doing the peer review, and of course covid definitely changed the way I had planned on completing it. My plan was to have them exchange activities in class or in recitation, work through them in small groups, then be able to provide feedback. Instead, they had to complete it online and provide feedback- I gave them the basic rubic, but changed the scores to categories of "exceeds expectations", "meets expectations", and "does not meet expectations".
I am always blown away by the creativity of my students! While some students submit more group worksheet activities, I have had plenty come up with games, relays, building/using playdough, etc...
Students usually report that they thought they knew a topic- only to begin making an activity and realize they didn't understand it as well as they thought they did. However, by the time the submitted their activity, they felt like they gained a much more in-depth understanding. They also loved getting to complete other students' assignments this semester. Their feedback indicated that they felt it was a great way to review, but also get some insight into how their peers think differently about topics.
Side note: Personally, I love seeing how many students tell me afterward that they have a newfound respect for professors after trying to make their own activity! :-)