Here in this blog we analyze different active learning methodologies that can be applied to engineering education, and also how technology may help apply such methodologies easily.
The key for active learning is to propose activities that make students work on their own, looking for the accomplishment of ambitious objectives.
A key factor for the successful application of active methodologies is that students receive as much feedback from the professor as possible; that way students can modify and improve their learning process continuously.
To provide the student with this feedback several actions may be taken, which can be classified in two main groups:
1. Actions based on group discussions. Discussions generated about a subject, project or problem (and activities that promote them, both in the classroom or on-line), help students work out their own knowledge based on the information received, and also based on their previous experience.
2. ACTIONS BASED ON EVALUATION. Both self-evaluation and classmate-peer evaluation are straightforward ways to improve students’ abilities to review their own personal work and to think about a better way to accomplish the objectives established by the professor.
To begin with, we will focus on the second group (classmate-peer evaluation). Classmate-peer evaluation allows tracking the performance of the student on a continuous basis. In addition, students learn how an evaluation is made, and the final result is a better capacity of self-evaluation.
Classmate-peer evaluation is usually limited to a small group of students (let’s say a class of 25). For instance, the students are divided in groups of four, and are asked to make a collaborative work (e.g. report on a subject, laboratory practical work…). Each one of the members of the group evaluates the other three. Notice that, at first, the evaluations may not be accurate. For that reason, the professor should find a non time-consuming way to check them.
The way to do this is to provide the students with the guide for evaluating the work of their peers in the group (or their peers in the other groups of the class). That guide should be given at the beginning of the semester. The guide should focus on the aspects the professor considers the most important.
Furthermore, the effectiveness of peer evaluation depends strongly on ensuring proper feedback on a timely basis. Professors should provide this feedback accurately and properly but, as the number of student increases, this timely feedback becomes more and more cumbersome.
In order to cope with that difficulty, information technologies tools can offer some help. We propose the following key functionalities for such a classmate-peer evaluation tool.
1. Students fill an electronic form with the evaluation of their peers.
2. All the evaluations are saved in a database and are identified both with the name of the student being reviewed and with the name of the reviewer.
3. The tool should compare the evaluations from all the students involved (usually three) in order to validate the goodness of the evaluation itself. If an evaluation is quite different from the others, the tool raises an alarm to the professor, who should review it.
4. The professor reviews the evaluations and marks them as valid or invalid. The system will merge professor’s evaluation with the valid ones.
In this way, peer evaluation is much more effective and less time-consuming, so professors could spend more time giving feedback to their students than evaluating them… which is more profitable.