The practitioner's perspective

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Active collaborative learning - University of Strathclyde

The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow has an undergraduate population of approximately 14,500. The Department of Mechanical Engineering at Strathclyde is one of the largest in the UK, with some 500 undergraduate and 80 postgraduate students.

An electronic voting system, InterwriteTM PRS (Personal Response System), was adopted by the department to increase interactivity in lectures. Four large lecture rooms were equipped with infra-red voting devices and receivers, and seating modified to enable students to engage in group discussion while still facing the front of the theatre.

Key advantages

Discussing conceptual questions in class with their peers has proved to be a powerful motivating force. Evaluations show that this increased interactivity has improved understanding and retention. Results from diagnostic tests provide further evidence of raised standards in the department. Allowing time for debate and reflection has prompted more active learning - students feel motivated to focus on knowledge gained during a lecture so that they can perform well in what they see as 'fun' assessment activities.