Cleveland Community College
"Building Futures Through Active Learning"
The Original Plan:
Cleveland Community College’s initial goal of the QEP, Building Futures Through Active Learning, was to improve student engagement with active learning strategies. The Social Sciences Department was the area of focus for the QEP. During Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, many elements were established that would prepare the Social Science faculty for Fall 2012. The process was introduced with professional development workshops on Active Learning Strategies (ALS), departmental meetings to discuss ideas and create departmental Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs), and a bibliographic center for all information to be stored, so faculty would have a collection of resources from which to reference. The QEP planned to use a three-fold assessment process in determining the success of the plan. CCC’s assessment tools were intended to create several kinds of feedback loops. At the classroom level, assessment measures were to include pre/post-tests, student surveys and focus groups, and personal interviews with faculty and students. The baseline data for the project was to come from the pre/post-test data from the Fall 2012. A second level of assessment would take place at the departmental level. These departmental SLOs would be measured by the pre/post-tests and faculty surveys and interviews. Finally, the success of active learning would be assessed at the institutional level with the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE). Assessments would take place in the classroom with internal assessments that instructors chose as well as pre/post-tests that the department would use. Pre/post-tests questions had discipline-specific questions to assess learning and departmental questions to measure departmental student learning outcomes. The Faculty Development Committee was created to plan and implement an intensive professional development program for faculty. While the initial plan was to start with two disciplines in the Social Sciences in Fall 2012 and expand from there, the whole department (which includes religion) chose to voluntarily participate with a high level of energy and enthusiasm. Below are the four initial student learning outcomes:
SLO 1: After participation in courses with ALS, students will demonstrate achievement of greater learning than their counterparts who have not participated in ALS courses.
To assess the first SLO, faculty selected three ‘problem’ areas in their course. The identified area was either difficult to teach or was an area where students have trouble learning material. ALS would be used to address problem areas and a pre/post-test would be used to assess success. However, pre/post data were not useful in determining this SLO because the amount of ALS in a class was not determined beforehand. Some faculty members used only three active learning activities for the semester, while other faculty members used a variety of active learning strategies in every class period. A baseline could not be established in which to measure the success of AL in student learning. Instead, faculty interviews were used to assess this learning outcome. In the beginning of the QEP, the history and religion instructors stated there was not enough background knowledge for students to participate in many active learning exercises. However, as workshops, informal discussions, and ALS emails took place the faculty began to use active learning in their classes. Group work and class activities began to be used more frequently in the history and religion courses. The religion classes even added a component where students were asked to go visit a religious ceremony that was different than what they were used to. In psychology, the instructors were invested from the beginning. They used play dough to teach different parts of the brain, and overall found the exercise highly effective in teaching a problem area. Students also agreed the exercise made learning the parts of the brain easier. Sociology tried two ideas and both were successful. Instructors wanted students to understand the sociological imagination. Television commercials were used in one class and the image of a closet in another class to illustrate different systems. The instructors of the course, Introduction to Sociology (SOC 210), created a master course in 2015. The television commercial and closet activity are still used and measures comprehension of the sociological imagination. In Fall 2015, 84% of the students were proficient, and this increased to 86% in Spring 2016. The active learning exercise did show an increase in student learning with the sociological imagination.
SLO 2: After participation in courses with ALS, students will exhibit attainment of higher learning by demonstrating greater written and oral communication skills along with critical thinking skills than their counterparts who have not participated in courses with ALS.
The second SLO addressed three crucial skills - writing, oral communication, and critical thinking. Faculty were encouraged to assign a written assignment measuring all three skills listed above. The Social Science disciplines used assignments that included written and oral communication skills, as well as critical thinking skills. The pre/post tests were to be used to measure this SLO and again, the tests did not provide useable data. For example, there was not a pre-determined amount of active learning, so a baseline could not be established to measure these skills. Faculty interviews were used once again and revealed that these three skills were addressed and measured, but not always in conjunction with active learning. Critical thinking was the skill most often used with AL. There was a great deal of group work, projects, and even a flipped classroom that addressed critical thinking skills. As far as writing and oral communication skills, some faculty used traditional papers and presentations to assess writing and oral communication skills. Two faculty members did use AL with these skills allowing interaction in the class with oral presentations (also using props) and allowing power points as a form of written communication. For example, a psychology class had students present different psychological disorders. One student found a Tyler Perry show that had a segment on Munchin Syndrome and used some actual clips in a presentation. In a student survey, one student said that AL makes him “think more.” Another student commented on the increased interaction between students when active learning was used. According to a faculty survey in regards to critical thinking, 75% of the Social Science faculty responded that active learning contributed to better critical thinking skills among students in their classes.
SLO 3: Students participating in ALS environments will indicate they have a better understanding of how they learn and the importance of learning in non-ALS environments.
The third SLO addressed the role of learning styles in the academic learners’ process. Faculty in Social Sciences administered a learning styles assessment each semester in order that students could better understand individual learning styles. Faculty were also encouraged to use multiple teaching methodologies which addressed each style of learning. The Social Science faculty used Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, and Kinesthetic (VARK), as recommended by the CCC Education faculty, as a way for students to learn individual learning styles. Fifty percent of the Social Science faculty attended a learning styles workshop hosted by the education department. When a survey of students from across campus was taken, 91% of students who had taken at least one social science class knew their learning style (as seen in the chart below). Research shows that when students understand how they learn, they are more engaged in the learning process and more likely to be successful. This SLO goal was attained.
|Question||Non-social science class||Social Science class|
|Do you know your learning style?||86%||91%|
|Type of learner: visual||37%||39%|
SLO 4: Students will make connections in the ALS classroom with other students and faculty that will extend outside the classroom.
The final SLO dealt with student engagement in the classroom and beyond the classroom. CCC expected that learning would become more interactive and more student-centered with the implementation of the four SLOs. Faculty excitement with ALS parlayed into creative measures in the classroom and sharing best practices with each other. Students said they “felt they knew their neighbor” in courses that used ALS and particularly those in the Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs). Furthermore, faculty stated that ALS and the ALCs provided a friendlier atmosphere and therefore, allowed easier interaction between students. Students knew from day one that this was “a different learning environment.” Most students sat at tables where Liquid Crystal Display screens (LCDs) were located and said they liked that the material was “closer” to them. Also, the moveable tables and chairs made group work easier. One class period could involve small groups around the different LCDs, while in another class one big circle could be created very easily. When asked in CCCSE surveys, participants responded they discussed ideas from readings or classes with others outside of class often or very often, totaling 7.8% in 2011, 43.5% in 2013, and 43.1% in 2015. This shows a huge increase from less than 8% in 2011 to more than 43% by 2015. While we cannot say unequivocally this was a result of the QEP, one could infer that the QEP most likely impacted the increase. (CCCSE)
There were two major changes to the CCC QEP. First, the assessment procedures changed to using qualitative styles of assessment instead of the pre/post-tests. Beginning in Fall 2013, the QEP director questioned the usefulness of pre/post-tests. After discussions with the Dean of Planning and Institutional Effectiveness and the Executive Vice President, the QEP director discontinued pre/post-tests in Fall 2014. The department discovered that while the information was interesting, it did not assess student engagement/learning with active learning. The Social Sciences department used focus groups, student interviews and surveys, and faculty interviews and surveys to assess engagement and learning in the classroom.
The second and more impactful change was the introduction of the Active Learning Classroom (ALC). The ALC’s impact is discussed in more detail under “impact and achievements,” but Social Science faculty learned quickly that the teaching environment can have an impact on the introduction of active learning strategies. Students reacted positively to these classrooms and faculty discovered many ways to enhance AL using the classroom.
Impact and Achievements
A major initiative of the QEP was to provide faculty with many opportunities for professional development using active learning strategies. Each semester, workshops were held at multiple times on a variety of ALS topics. Faculty were encouraged to attend. Some workshops were taught internally, with instructors sharing their own ALS ideas, while other workshops featured external experts. The College subscribed to Magna Commons and now Academic Impressions to make online workshop opportunities accessible. A kick-off workshop was held in April 2011 for all faculty that spotlighted active learning. According to a faculty survey, 65% of faculty that attended an AL workshop used the information in their courses.
In a workshop entitled “Active Learning with Al” (Sociology Instructor Al Dunkleman fully embraced AL from the beginning of the QEP), the faculty responded with enthusiasm in a survey about which part of the workshop they would integrate into their own classes. Group projects, partnering, and interviews were all popular ideas to add. One faculty member said Dunkleman showed her that active learning would “get them out of their comfort zone.” One important aspect that Dunkleman illustrated in this workshop was how to set up an active learning class which includes introducing an idea, an activity, a lecture, group work, and a conclusion. These activities take place in 15 minute increments.
The CCC TRiO-SSS Program was so enthused with the workshop that they planned to implement the ideas of small groups and interviews into their program. Another workshop was presented by an instructor who had flipped her classroom. In a survey response, two faculty members stated they were going to attempt the flipped classroom. Allowing faculty to share their active learning experiences and ideas in the workshops contributed to a great deal of collegial discussion and trying new ideas.
The following chart illustrates the results from a faculty survey. Questions were asked about how much active learning was used in courses Also, the chart shows to what degree the professional development was used in the classroom.
Active Learning Overview
|Do you use AL in courses?||90% stated yes|
| How often?
80% of time
|50% of time||24% responded|
|30% of time||18% responded|
|What do you use? Activities/games||34%|
|Compared to lecture only, to what degree do you believe AL engages student more effectively?||85% much more and more|
|Use info from workshops in your course||65% stated yes|
|Use the QEP Website||22% states yes|
|Use info from ALS emails||68% stated yes|
Each Social Science faculty member centered their PEP (Performance Enrichment Plan-part of faculty member’s annual evaluation) around active learning for the 2012-2013 year. The Social Science faculty used the QEP workshops to enhance active learning in their classrooms. The following chart shows the different workshops that were offered and the percentage of Social Science faculty that attended.
|Name of Workshop||% Social Science Faculty Attending|
|10 Ways to Engage Students||100%|
|Al's Active Learning Strategies||75%|
|Turning Point Clickers||75%|
|Captivating Your Captive Audience||38%|
|ALS and Clickers||38%|
|AL and Teamwork||50%|
|Integrating AL in Online Courses||50%|
|How to Use the ALC||50%|
A second initiative created an online repository for faculty to access AL information. This website is maintained on the College’s library page (Rose Library) by the QEP Director. It is a bibliography of books, articles, and workshops for all faculty. It also contains highlights from workshops hosted on campus. The QEP director shares multiple emails each semester relaying ALS strategies. All of these are maintained on the website. In a faculty survey, 68% of respondents stated they used the information in the emails.
http://library.clevelandcc.edu/c.php?g=16901&p=93993 This is the home page for the QEP website.
http://library.clevelandcc.edu/c.php?g=16901&p=93994 This is the background and theory for the use of active learning.
http://library.clevelandcc.edu/c.php?g=16901&p=93995 These are the Active Learning resources. Many of the resources are links that take the faculty member directly to the resource. This page contains all the ASL emails that the QEP director sends out.
http://library.clevelandcc.edu/c.php?g=16901&p=93996 This final page contains workshop summaries.
A final initiative of the QEP was to create faculty learning communities where ideas could be shared amongst faculty. Faculty shared with each other what techniques worked and what did not work in their classes. There were also focused FLC’s hosted by the QEP director on topics pertinent to ALS such as civility in the classroom and using discussion boards to engage online learners. While these were not well attended and eventually eliminated, social science faculty did have numerous informal conversations outside offices; ideas were exchanged and academic conversation increased on an informal level. Also, ideas and questions were shared at the active learning workshops.
Early in the QEP, the Dean of Learning Resources investigated active learning classrooms (ALCs). She and the QEP director attended a conference on the ALC at the University of Minnesota in August 2011. The conference led to the creation of the first ALC on the CCC campus (Spring 2012) which was used by the Social Science classes. History and Sociology were pioneers of the room and made suggestions. During the QEP four other ALCs were built (total of 5). These rooms were scheduled by the QEP director and all Social Science classes taught on the CCC campus were in these rooms. The ALCs have moveable tables and chairs, huddle boards, clickers, multiple LCDs (one with Smart Boards), and student laptops, making the ALC resources easily accessible and conducive to higher student engagement.
Based on interviews, students stated as soon as they walked into the room, they knew it was going to be a different type of class. “I liked that it appealed to my kinesthetic learning tendencies.” “The classroom felt more engaging.” “It is definitely more of a learning environment.” These were just a few of the comments made by students about the active learning classroom. Among the Social Science faculty, 73% stated that students were more or much more engaged in the course when the class was in an ALC. The configuration of the room and multiple LCDs helped students stay more engaged in the active learning classroom than in a traditional classroom. The instructors agreed and added that with moveable tables and chairs, active learning strategies were easier to implement. Sociology Instructor Dunkleman, an avid user of active learning, stated: “An active learning classroom provides an opportunity for the instructor to ‘create’ the learning environment desired. The moveable furniture allows for endless possibilities. To encourage discussion and collaboration, I like to place students in groups of four. The AL classroom allows me the opportunity to move around and have up-close interaction with each small group. It is rewarding to observe the student’s process of critical thinking and to see the friendships that they develop over the course of the semester.” Several workshops were held in the ALC to advertise the room to faculty outside the Social Sciences and promote its capabilities. A student survey about the ALC illustrates the power of the environment in learning.
|Question||Non-social science class||Social science class|
|Had a class in ALC||68%||98%|
|Feature that made the biggest difference to learning- (multiple LCDs)||65%||64%|
|Believes that ALC enhanced learning very much or just enhanced||78%||70%|
|The ALC environment kept me much more/somewhat engaged compared to a regular classroom||79%||72%|
|Preferred teaching method: interactive lecture with class discussions||51%||50%|
|Interaction with video/ppt||24%||23%|
One unexpected outcome of the QEP was that the idea of active learning spread beyond the social sciences. Several faculty members responded to the ALS emails with comments about how they used the ideas in their classrooms. Many different disciplines described their uses of AL and it created lots of small conversations throughout the college regarding the strengths that active learning can provide. This outcome did establish a positive presence at CCC.
What a learning experience! We discovered that the type of classroom makes a huge impact on student engagement and learning. The ALC was not a part of the original QEP plan, but became an integral part of it. The ALC impacted the entire department and sparked excitement about using ALS. This excitement spread to other disciplines. The more a student feels valued and engaged, the more success results. Below is a picture of Al Dunkleman, teaching a Sociology class in an ALC.
The Social Sciences Department found that while they teach in different disciplines, some of the same techniques will work with each one. Group work, partnering and the use of clickers and huddle boards can be used with any discipline. The department has bonded in a very collegial way resulting in more respect amongst faculty. While some of the Social Science faculty were skeptical about active learning increasing student success, by Fall 2016, 100% of the Social Science faculty stated that they had used AL. Also, 88% said they use AL in all of their seated classes every semester. These statistics support the degree to which the QEP positively impacted the learning environment.
Student engagement is key to student success. Students need to feel they are a part of the class, not just a passive observer in the class. Students must participate in the classroom experience; not just listen silently. Active learning allows students to fully engage in the overall learning experience. One faculty member stated that the QEP had rejuvenated her love for teaching. She had found new ways to teach ideas and that students responded in an engaged manner. There was more excitement in the classroom and she feels that student success was the result. Again, the QEP positively impacted the learning environment and, in this case, the faculty member as well.
As for the future of active learning at CCC, many parts of the QEP will be carried forth. The ALS emails and online repository will continue to be maintained by the QEP director. The director will continue to schedule workshops, some on active learning and some on other topics, through the Faculty Development Committee, which was created as a part of the QEP. The use of the ALCs has spread throughout the College. Most of the social science classes still meet in the ALCs, but now, many other disciplines sign up to teach in these classrooms. Building Futures Through Active Learning was a great success at CCC. The QEP increased student engagement in the classroom which resulted in more successful students. The initiative also created a more collegial community amongst Social Science faculty as they discussed active learning and the active learning classroom.