An Active/Interactive Learning Story

The Wisconsin Experience seminar class I teach has provided a fantastic opportunity for me to try out a bunch of teaching strategies. Although I love to talk, one of the big experiments is structuring activities where students construct their own knowledge, and do so socially — through interactions and co-construction of their knowledge with their peers (See Chi, 2009 for definitions). 


The physical layout of Sterling’s Collaborative Learning Classroom helps tremendously. It’s almost impossible to just lecture in this space. The activity represented here was an exploration of the Wisconsin Experience and Essential Learning Outcomes [pdf]. They looked at the four main categories, and were asked to match these with their course assignments:

  1. SterlingWIexpELOactivity2Consider the four areas:
    • Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World
    • Intellectual and Practical Skills
    • Personal and Social Responsibility
    • Integrative Learning
  2. Consider the assignments in all of your courses
  3. Try (hard) to map some of the assignments to the fours areas
  4. Share with your table (three other students), and write them on the whiteboard
  5. Individually check out all the whiteboards, and add a checkmark next to the courses you are taking. 

The goals of the activity — 

  • Develop an introductory understanding of the Wisconsin Experience and Essential Learning Outcomes, and identify intentional ways of creating their own
  • Promote appreciation and involvement with campus, both in and out of class
  • Introduce the value of high impact practices and essential learning outcomes

meshed here with the goals of the course — 

In ten years, I want you to look back on this course and think: I learned to be a critical thinker in part because of that class. That won’t happen unless you jump into real discussions with your classmates. My goal for the course is to create and foster an environment and activities where you can develop the attitudes, skills, and knowledge that you need to succeed at UW-Madison —most significantly to develop and integrate your own path and goals.”

Chi, M. T. (2009). Active‐constructive‐interactive: A conceptual framework for differentiating learning activities. Topics in Cognitive Science1(1), 73-105.


2 thoughts on “An Active/Interactive Learning Story

  1. Hello John, this looks like an excellent environment to test some perceptions associated with the Wisconsin Idea. Without getting political (too much) I have an idea for exploring the Wisconsin Idea. In my opinion, one of the unstated but underlying principles of the Wisconsin Idea is ‘there is enough for everyone’. Stated differently, the University and the State have so much in knowledge and resources that it can be shared freely. But is this true? The concept that there is NOT enough for everybody seems to me to be a fundamental precept of the market economy, supply and demand. To explore this idea I imagine a group activity that explores a resource and questions if it can or cannot be shared freely. Why or Why not? This could be supported by paper or electronic simulations, role-playing activities and more.

  2. Hi John, I saw your link to this blog post on yammer. I’d love to discuss this with you more! Your yammer post indicated that you would like ideas on how to refine your ideas about active learning activities. I’d be interested to know what criteria you are using to create and refine your activities. Let’s talk! :o) Leticia

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