Friday, February 17, 2012

Experiencing Different Types of Learning. . .

In Workshop on Tuesday we explored different teaching techniques (passive, active and experiential) for an example lesson regarding the intersection of Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens in prehistoric times. Together, after throwing some spears… and accidentally throwing some adladls, we came to the conclusion that utilizing experiential learning activities in the classroom is a beneficial supplement to passive and active techniques such as lecture and discussion, however sometimes adding experiential learning to lessons can be a challenge. Let’s use this blog space to brainstorm on activities we can think of that are manageable in the classroom (or just outside the classroom), but provide an experiential learning approach.

A lot of hard work went in to the presentation. If you would like to read more about the variety of learning styles and their disciplinary differences, or the theory behind experiential learning, or perhaps you just like games.

Please share an experiential learning activity that you have used or can think of. We would love as many ideas as possible!


Lesson: Physics (or in my case, Global Climate Change and the Greenhouse Effect) - understanding the fate of electromagnetic radiation when it hits the earth including reflection, absorption and transmission.

Activity: On a sunny day, using black and white sheets of paper, demonstrate how the absorption or reflectance of electromagnetic radiation is dependant on surface quality (color). Black sheets will heat up over time, while white sheets will stay cool. Explain how this is due to the “albedo” of a surface and ask the students what surfaces on earth are more like the white sheet vs the black sheet of paper. Also could provide an example using a mirror to demonstrate that reflected EMR stays in the same form as incident (source) radiation (i.e. visible light).

Courtesy of Krista, Anand and Cassie


  1. This is less a specific activity and more a strategy...

    As most of you probably already know, I study/teach human evolution. Most courses include morphological evolution and a weekly lab where students have to examine and compare fossil casts. This is an activity that requires active engagement, but I find student learning (gauged by their questions, participation, and performance on exams) is improved if the lab is supplemented by more experiential assignments--either a practical exam following the lab course or a paper describing the anatomy of a fossil cast. These assignments require the students to apply knowledge from the course to independently identify key characteristics; they mimic the actual research process and show students how qualitative observation of morphology leads to so much controversy in this area of paleoanthropology.

  2. I have TA'd a science for non-science majors course: Genetics and Society multiple times and will be a co-instructor next quarter.

    One time when I had to explain the concept of permutation and combination for genetic inheritance of > 20,000 genes, some with more than 2 alleles each:

    I made students come up and draw on the blackboard a slot machine with 3 reels each, but with varying number of outcomes for each reel - the analogy here being, one reel = one gene, number of outcomes for any given reel = number of alleles for that gene in the population.

    The students were then asked to calculate the probability of any two individuals being the same genotype, given some assumptions they made up based on these in-class examples.

    Almost all students could identify the math behind the 'genetic lottery' being similar to the chance of winning at the slots :)