New course format enhances student learning experience
Psychology 100 has the highest enrolment of any course at Queen’s and it’s recently received a design makeover that is having a major impact on students and faculty.
The format of traditional lectures in large auditoriums for the 1800 students who take the class has been replaced with a blended learning model that includes self-paced online learning and hands-on small group activities.
“Rather than supplementing the traditional lecture format, we are transforming the way courses are designed and delivered based on what we know about student learning and engagement,” says Brenda Ravenscroft, Associate Dean (Studies), Faculty of Arts and Science.
Blended learning can take many forms, but the common components include moving the transmission of fundamental information online, where students can work at their own pace, and focusing the classroom time on active learning.
In the case of PSYC 100, students attend one lecture a week in which professors explore a provocative question or discuss their own research. Then they apply the concepts they have learned online in small learning labs facilitated by fourth-year and Master’s students.
“This is an exceptional experience for an undergrad, and will definitely give us an edge when we’re looking for future teaching responsibilities, either as TAs in graduate school or pursuing a teaching career,” says facilitator Jessica Rich, a fourth-year Concurrent Education/Psychology student.
Since students remain in the same small lab groups all year, they often study and interact outside the classroom, building a social network with their peers and interacting with upper-year students as mentors.
The move to blended learning is a faculty-wide initiative that will eventually be reflected in other Arts and Science courses, including first-year offerings in sociology, calculus and gender studies, as well as a second-year course in classics. A first-year geography course currently combines online lectures and small group active learning components.