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Encouraging active learning when teaching geospatial sciences

Encouraging active learning when teaching geospatial sciences Geo-spatial Information Science, 2014 Vol. 17, No. 4, 219–228, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10095020.2014.989655 Igor A. MUSIKHIN* Siberian State Academy of Geodesy, Plakhotnogo Str., Novosibirsk 630108, Russia (Received 27 July 2014; final version received 30 October 2014) In today’s world, higher education, especially in technical sciences, is crucial when speaking about a change in values and attitudes towards sustainability. Engaging students in learning and training process as well as developing their research skills and creative capacity is challenging. This study inquiries into the current academic activities and role of used educational technologies and methodologies for encouraging active learning in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs when teaching any engineering course in general, and geospatial sciences in particular. The result of the study suggests the importance of interdisciplinary project and problem-based learning, building partnership with universities, students and industrial companies, monitoring, developing, and implementation of new educational technologies. Keywords: active learning; geospatial sciences; learning-style preferences; good practice in higher education; creativity If you tell me I will listen. If you show me I will see. If Surveyors, and many other international authorities, you let me experience, I will learn. (Lao-Tzu) although in some countries, the term geospatial technol- ogy is used instead of geomatics (e.g. USA). To sum up, it is possible to say that geomatics is the discipline of 1. Introduction gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic The traditional format of education for many introduc- or spatially referenced information. It means that when tory and specialized science courses presents a number teaching geomatics, special attention is paid both to theo- of challenges to both teaching and learning (1). If in retical and practical aspects leading to comprehensive social studies, traditional methods of teaching and learn- understanding of the subject. The same principles of ing may still be considered acceptable, in technical disci- teaching can be transferred to any other geospatial disci- plines, they are a prior subject of major changes. Due to pline. One of the advantages of teaching geomatics, as many interdisciplinary connections, technical courses in well as many of the geospatial and engineering courses, general, and described here course of geomatics (cover- is the fact that teachers have a lot of supplementary real- ing a number of geospatial sciences) in particular, need life materials and software products which can be incor- to be focused on student-centered pedagogy (SCP), tak- porated into the educational and training processes. ing into consideration all possible ways of making both While fulfilling practical and project-based assignments, learning and teaching more efficient. Within SCP students are able to get involved both into research activ- approach, it is possible to point out the activities, such ities and solving actual problems of the industry, making as lecturing, practicals, lab work, seminars, research, and it possible to transform creative thoughts into creative project- and problem-based learning. Many of the above- actions. mentioned activities have been used in high school for a Typically for high school, a large amount of theoreti- long time; nevertheless, their efficiency will undoubtedly cal content is delivered to students through a lecture for- be less noticeable if they are not modified to the subject, mat, which like any educational technic, may be applied student, and teacher (2, 3). both efficiently and inefficiently. The passivity of stu- To come to a better understanding of those modifica- dents in lectures has long been observed and criticized tions to be introduced into educational process, the defi- (4). Respecting the fact that university learners have nition of geomatics needs to be made. According to changed, it is necessary to use active lecturing strategies Arun and Anand, geomatics combines the terms of geod- maximizing student learning of the course content and esy and geoinformatics, and includes the tools and tech- engaging teachers and learners at higher levels. Making niques that are used in land surveying, remote sensing, students more engaged in the educational process and cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), delivering its content in variety of settings makes lecture global navigation satellite systems, photogrammetry, an efficient and successful method of knowledge transfer geography, and related forms of earth mapping. The term (5, 6). Nevertheless, even now, some university teachers has been adopted by the International Organization for deliver their material in a traditional passive lecture when Standardization, the Royal Institution of Chartered *Email: igor_musihin@mail.ru © 2014 Wuhan University 220 I.A. MUSIKHIN professor speaks and students take notes without thinking When speaking about the worst lecture, both students (7). In this case, the lecture fails to motivate and encour- and teachers refer to the “monotone lecturer,” who is age students to attain skills and competences they will unable to vary the transfer of knowledge and presenta- need to succeed after graduating and only makes them tion of his spoken voice (4). Lowering and increasing just remember the material for exams (8). the tone of the voice, the use of silences and pauses, In many cases, a lecture or practical becomes dull introducing in-class debates and conversations or taped when a teacher fails to deliver the information to the recordings, etc. are the ways affecting and varying the whole group of students. It usually occurs to either a student experience. Visual stimulation of students can be young or, more seldom, senior lecturer who is not well done with video and movie clips, PowerPoint slides, dia- trained (or, as a rule, if speaking about teaching geospa- grams, and graphics, links to the Internet, etc. This kind tial or technical sciences, not trained at all) in pedagogy. of student stimulation is essential for teaching technical It is not rare that these beginner teachers learn teaching and engineering subjects, where a lecture without visual from their teachers remembering what and how they aids is mostly inefficient and would be a very rare expe- learned and were taught in various classes, and appreci- rience. Incorporating visuals into a lecture can provide a ating that learning long after they graduated. That is why helpful reinforcement to the lecturer’s speech, especially junior or beginner faculty members often try to pattern for those students who are visuals in their learning-style their first teaching experiences based on former profes- preferences, the use of visual stimulation is more than a sors’ teaching methods, with the goal to be an effective helpful addition and is an important part of the commu- teacher, respected and liked by their students (9), not nication itself. Varying what students do in a lecture is taking into consideration the fact that learners and their the prior task for a teacher to consider – the students will learning-style preferences have changed. remember what they do in lectures much better than The delivered material may be interesting but if the what they are told (16), that is why the teacher should teacher is not able to explain to his students the impor- plan at least three things for students to do in any hour tance of the information for their future professional each lecture. activities and success from the very beginning of the When teaching geospatial sciences, special attention lecture, he takes the first step in the wrong direction – must be concentrated on the development of student’s students do and pay more attention only to those things practical skills, deep understanding of theoretical back- that meet their needs and coincide with their goals. Five ground, and interdisciplinary relationship. This can be introductory minutes in the beginning of the lecture will reached through the following activities: allow students to understand the importance of the new material and save the teacher from appealing to disci-  (lecture) by combination of the theoretical course pline and attention during the lecture. Due to a number delivery simultaneously with a number of practical of complex topics in the delivered course, the lecture problems solved by students individually or in must be dynamic and inspire students (10) to a more groups (depending on the problem and students’ active participation in the educational process. In his learning deficiencies), and aiming a better under- studies, reference (11) found out that students are usually standing of the theory (15) by means of its capable to accept the delivered information efficiently for practical applications (understanding, interpretation, 15–20 min (12, 13), whereupon they need either a short application); rest or change of their activity. While planning a lecture,  (practicals) by development of “real-life” tasks/situ- the teacher has to pay special attention to physiological ations to be solved and requiring a comprehensive needs of the students and provide them with different understanding of the past theoretical material of the kind of activities every quarter of an hour (e.g. lecture, main and associated courses . Within these activi- group or pair work, discussion of the material, writing a ties, students are to learn different approaches when test, solving a problem, etc.). Managing in-class coopera- solving a problem (understanding, interpretation, tion also requires plenty of thought and planning, espe- application, analysis); and cially when a large-size class is taught (4). In simple  (research) by attraction of the students to scientific terms, teachers have it in their power to vary stimulation and R&D works carried out at the university in three domains: what students hear, see, and do (14). (understanding, interpretation, application, analysis, During the lecture, the teacher should also plan and deli- synthesis, appraisal of the situation). ver his material to students following the classification of educational goals proposed in Ref. (15): understand- To better meet the needs and potential of the educa- ing; learning; usage; analysis; synthesis; and assessment tional process, it is especially essential to monitor stu- of the situation. The first three goals are essentially nec- dent activities and progress during the semester, essary for first-year undergraduate students, while the last determining their learning-style preferences to form three promote and form effective professional skills teaching strategies both at lectures and practicals (17). demanded among senior and graduate students. At the For this reason, Chikering and Gamson call for teachers same time, the last three goals require a lot of teachers’ to improve classroom teaching. Being aware of students’ time, work, and ability to apply them. learning-style preferences, teachers can advance Geo-spatial Information Science 221 university education themselves, if a focus on improve- When incorporating A&PBL and SCLE, students are ment is maintained. The late Chikering and Gamson organized into groups of 3–5 working together through- offered seven principles for good practice in high school out the whole semester. The choice of the students form- education (18), which should be adopted and largely ing a working group must be based on the previous applied when teaching geospatial sciences: monitoring of their learning-style preferences, in-class observations, common interests, and educational deficien- (1) encourage contact between students and teachers; cies. The monitoring may be done by using student (2) develop interaction and cooperation among stu- feedback, in-class observations, or interviews. dents; It is also important to plan the course in such a way (3) encourage active learning; that every lesson, the groups are given a quantitative, (4) give prompt feedback; qualitative, or conceptual problem. When planning the (5) emphasize time on task; time period for any particular problem, the compulsory (6) communicate high expectations; and condition is that it must be always time limited. Usually, (7) respect diverse talents and ways of learning. the time frame is calculated as time necessary to the tea- cher to find the solution of the problem multiplied by Even now, after several decades, these principles are 1.3 or 1.5 depending on the teacher’s experience (21). the basis for program and course revision, especially to The variety of active-learning exercises that can be used motivate active and efficient learning in high school. in A&PBL and SCLE educational process is well described in Ref. (20). The in-class discussion of the found solution should 2. Implementation of active learning strategies for be always started from the group of students having insig- teaching geospatial sciences nificant educational deficiencies. As a rule, such approach 2.1. Encouragement of contacts between students and allows other groups of students to get better prepared for teachers the discussion and shows them what aspects of the solu- tion need to be emphasized when presented. As a result, Speaking out, to answer, or ask a question in a lecture is all of the following groups of students feel themselves an incredibly daunting thing to do and it is not surprising more confident while making their presentation. that only the bravest students would ever consider doing As for the course redesign, its organization has to this. Therefore, if a teacher really wants to hear back meet the main pedagogical tasks of the teacher and stu- from his students in lectures, it is worthwhile thinking dent class-time activities. While delivering the in-class about some different ways of stimulating this response. material, when the teacher supposes to use a number of Some of the ways to encourage contacts between stu- front, group, and pair activities, it is necessary to plan dents and teachers are incorporating active and problem- and organize the educational process, thus to provide all based (A&PBL) learning into every lesson (1), adopt in-class time employment of each student. It can be several strategies to create a more student-centered learn- reached by the combination of active-learning exercises, ing environment (SCLE), and redesign the course. assuming various activities offered to particular students The above-mentioned methods have been widely or groups at the same time (e.g. reading, problem- used when teaching humanities and are being success- solving, making a test, concept maps, etc.). By organiz- fully adopted for some science and biology courses (1). ing the educational process in such a way the teacher In addition, a series of influential reports and papers creates more opportunities for in-class communication have called attention to the need for changes in and encourages students to address him much oftener; at approaches to university education in ways that promote the same time, students working in groups are able to active-learning strategies for a diversity of students (19, develop their in-group communicational skills. 20). This need is particularly acute in geospatial sci- ences, where a steady decreasing number of entrants and graduate students have been noticed for several decades. 2.2. Development of interaction and cooperation Due to a large number of facilities and equipment among students used at the departments of universities when teaching any geospatial course and carrying out corresponding Taking into consideration the results of in-class monitor- research activities, the development and implementation ing and focusing on differences in students’ preparation of A&PBL and SCLE in the educational and training level and their learning-style preferences, teachers are be process should not cause any technical problems. The able to apply SCP and project-based (PBE) methods in ones that arise are the problems of teacher’s qualifica- educational process. The results of the monitoring allow tion, awareness, and readiness to learn and apply new the teacher to select groups of students in such a way educational technologies of active learning in their work. that their joint team-learning activities will compensate Some of the efficient approaches for a geospatial course every particular student educational deficiencies. Such replanning and redesign to make it A&PBL and SCLE approach solves several problems simultaneously. First, oriented are described below. the students understand that their project-based work will 222 I.A. MUSIKHIN be successful only if all of them are active while fulfill- Starting from the early 90s, a series of articles have ing their part of work. Second, the results achieved by paid attention to the need for changes in approaches to the end of the project work inspire and motivate students engineering education in ways that promote meaningful to a deeper self-training in the subject as well as improve learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking for stu- their performance in communicational, professional, and dents (19, 20). Taking into account that most of geospa- critical thinking skills and competences. Third, by work- tial sciences belong to engineering, it is possible to draw ing on a project, each student can experience many new a parallel and come to conclusion that active-learning and important activities helping and encouraging him to methods should be largely introduced and implemented overcome some of his educational and communicational in educational and training processes when teaching geo- deficiencies, leading to improved learning outcomes. If spatial disciplines. This need is most seen at the intro- speaking about geospatial sciences, students’ project ductory level, where a major leakage of students toward activities can be concentrated and organized for solving engineer and science careers has been noted (23). That is of a part of a larger project supervised by the teacher why universities had to pay their special attention to and carried out by several groups of students during redesigning of existing curriculums and courses imple- in- and out-of-class activities. This approach motivates menting above-mentioned approaches into educational students to interact with their group mates and students process. Later, the combination of these approaches was working in other ones; it induces them to address to adopted under the name of “active learning.” Reference additional sources of information. The effect of the (24)defines active learning as “seeking new information, described approach is more noticeable when students are organizing it in a way that is meaningful, and having the working on the solution of a real problem (e.g. creating chance to explain it to others.” Active learning empha- or updating a data layer for GIS; laying of a route for sizes student responsibility for their own and their peers’ geodetic or aerial survey; etc.). learning, and promotes a higher level of training when The described here method is efficient when solving students go beyond the content trying to understand the the task of interaction and cooperation development connections within and how they were formed. Refer- among students during educational process. The studies ence (1) asserts that active learning improves not only (22) carried out at the Siberian State Academy of Geod- student outcome but attitudes as well. esy from 1998 to 2006 indicate that the presented SCP Majority of students see learning as the accumulation & PBE methods are effective for all students of the class of unambiguous information and resist active-learning (courses of cartography, GIS, photogrammetry, remote techniques when they believe these techniques are not sensing, geomatics, and applied geodesy) if compared sufficient to provide them with needed information (2). with traditional methods of training, especially after a One of the ways to accomplish a more positive student two-year period (Tables 1 and 2), but they proved to be reception of active-learning courses would be to organize much more effective for students having low (A) and classes so as to achieve a judicious balance of student- high (C) levels of educational deficiencies (Table 3). centered activities and presentation-style instruction (2). Such form of learning emphasizes interactions both among students, and between students and a teacher 2.3. Encouragement of active learning involving a cycle of activity and feedback, where stu- Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listen- dents are given real opportunities to apply their learning ing to teachers, memorizing the earlier prepared assign- in the classroom, which allows the latter to become inde- ments, and giving out answers. They must discuss what pendent and critical thinkers (25). they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experi- The task of a teacher is to structure classroom ences, and apply it to what they think is important. activities in such a way that they would not compete Table 1. Students’ educational outcomes before (beginning of the academic year) and after (end of the academic year) implementa- tion of SCP & PBE methods. First year Second year Year Beginning End Growth Beginning End Growth Average growth 1998–2000 0.72 0.82 +0.10 0.80 0.87 +0.07 +0.15 1999–2001 0.71 0.79 +0.08 0.81 0.85 +0.04 +0.14 2000–2002 0.74 0.81 +0.07 0.79 0.87 +0.08 +0.13 2001–2003 0.76 0.87 +0.11 0.85 0.96 +0.11 +0.20 2002–2004 0.72 0.79 +0.07 0.80 0.88 +0.08 +0.16 2003–2005 0.72 0.81 +0.09 0.81 0.90 +0.09 +0.18 2004–2006 0.75 0.85 +0.10 0.84 0.93 +0.09 +0.18 Average 0.73 0.82 +0.09 0.81 0.89 +0.08 +0.16 Geo-spatial Information Science 223 Table 2. Students’ educational outcomes shown within traditional methods of training. First year Second year Year Beginning End Growth Beginning End Growth Average growth 1998–2000 0.70 0.79 +0.09 0.73 0.79 +0.06 +0.07 1999–2001 0.73 0.81 +0.08 0.75 0.82 +0.07 +0.09 2000–2002 0.68 0.77 +0.09 0.72 0.78 +0.06 +0.10 2001–2003 0.75 0.81 +0.06 0.77 0.80 +0.03 +0.05 2002–2004 0.71 0.79 +0.09 0.74 0.79 +0.05 +0.08 2003–2005 0.73 0.81 +0.08 0.78 0.83 +0.05 +0.10 2004–2006 0.70 0.79 +0.09 0.73 0.81 +0.08 +0.11 Average 0.71 0.80 +0.08 0.75 0.80 +0.06 +0.09 Table 3. Average growth of students’ educational outcomes before (beginning of the academic year) and after (end of the academic year) implementation of SCP & PBE methods. AB C Beginning End Beginning End Beginning End Average 0.860 0.996 0.830 0.858 0.400 0.786 Growth +0.136 +0.028 +0.386 with students’ needs; to explain students that class time One thousand and eighty-two participants completed will be spent on activities designed to a better under- the survey on their learning-style preferences from 1998 standing of the most difficult concepts; customized to 2007 (approximately 100 students a year). The partici- mini-lectures will help create a better perception; that pants ranged from 17 to 20 years old, with an average classroom activities are focused on students’ needs. Ref- age of 18.2 years. erences (26, 27) proved that first-year students are more Each year, after analyzing the results of the survey receptive to active-learning techniques. That is why a and autumn semester monitoring, active-learning strate- proper introduction of active-learning value allows teach- gies were modified correlating the changes in student ers to capture the enthusiasm of all students. learning-style preferences, which allowed the educators Reference (3) adduces four basic elements of any to reduce the resistance to active-learning techniques active-learning strategy, they are: talking and listening, from students considerably. writing, reading, and reflecting. These elements and stu- The impact of the autumn semester monitoring on dent-centered approach can be used in many different active-learning strategies modification proved to be very combinations to create specific active-learning strategies important. The in-class observations showed that within that are able to satisfy any student’s learning-style prefer- their first semester at the university, a significant number ences. of students changed their previous attitude to learning- Researches, carried out at the Siberian State Acad- style preferences (Table 5). emy of Geodesy (22), showed that when developing Reference (28) pointed out two types of motivation active-learning strategies to provide a higher efficiency when learning: extrinsic and intrinsic, considering the of their implementation into educational process, student latter one far more essential for creativity. Having the learning-style preferences should be taken into account results of the survey and monitoring a set of individual (Table 4). and group projects, paying attention to intrinsic type of Table 4. Student learning-style preferences in the beginning of their first semester at university (response percent). Learning style 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Reading 23.4 25.7 22.2 19.4 17.3 16.5 15.3 8.6 9.9 12.0 Subject-specific software 37.5 41.4 40.8 38.4 35.2 35.2 31.5 31.1 30.2 28.0 Web (blogs, wikis), Podcasts 0.0 0.0 2.4 7.3 21.2 28.5 46.5 59.8 53.7 56.0 Internet research 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 4.5 14.1 17.3 24.9 43.4 56.0 Other learning-style activities 35.0 27.3 27.3 30.4 18.9 13.0 20.1 21.4 24.1 28.5 Individual learning style 23.1 20.9 22.3 19.7 21.6 18.8 19.1 16.8 16.3 14.0 Group learning style 76.9 79.1 77.7 80.3 78.4 81.2 80.9 83.2 83.7 86.0 224 I.A. MUSIKHIN Table 5. Student learning-style preferences after a semester at university (response percent). Learning style 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Reading 52.4 49.1 49.5 44.5 46.3 37.5 38.7 38.1 38.9 39.8 Subject-specific software 28.5 31.1 29.8 29.3 25.3 24.2 21.1 21.6 20.1 18.8 Web (blogs, wikis), Podcasts 0 0 3.4 12.4 31.1 40.6 61.9 79.3 73.4 77.2 Internet research 0 0 2 6.8 15.4 28.7 36.1 48.4 75.1 90.2 Individual learning style 22.1 19.7 20.8 17.6 18.9 22.9 14.3 13.3 14.6 9.8 Group learning style 77.9 80.3 79.2 82.4 81.1 77.1 85.7 86.7 85.4 90.2 motivation, was specially developed and offered to stu- backgrounds of the students. The difficulty in presenta- dents. The offered projects were of a different level and tion of the course material at the right level, to meet the corresponded to determined student learning-style prefer- needs of diverse student groups, can be significantly ences, so any student or a group of students was able to reduced or eliminated if the teacher gives his students an choose the most-suitable circumstances and familiar immediate chance to check out their understating and environment while working on a project. Every devel- perspective (4). Although it seems a rather simple idea, oped project provided students with eight core processes the practice shows that it usually is, a little more difficult generating new understanding derived from existing to achieve. Thus, even having insight into students’ knowledge: problem finding; information gathering; con- needs, interests, experiences, abilities, and general level cept search and selection; conceptual combination; idea of education, it is actually difficult to deliver the material generation; idea evaluation; implementation; action mon- knowing that for some, it will be too simple, for others, itoring (28, 29). Active application of SCP and PBE too complex, and hopefully, for majority, it will be just approaches into educational process provides students right. with a complex four-dimensional interactive relationship: Similar to any story, each part of a lecture has a dis- creative persons, cognitive process of creativity, products tinct purpose. In the beginning of a lecture, it is essential of creative performance, social and cultural contexts (28, to capture students’ interest, engage, and motivate them 30). Thus, introduction of SCP and PBE approaches to learn. During the first minutes, the teacher can use a focused on student’s personality, knowledge and motiva- number of activities that connect to the students and tion, thinking and learning styles into educational and make them relate prior knowledge to the lesson ahead, training processes allows educators to promote creativity then the teacher may ask them to write or give an oral and research skills to learners, transforming their novel prediction of what they think will be next with an expla- ideas into useful products. While working on a project, nation. The act of anticipating what is coming next is an teachers as facilitators should provide opportunities for active process and builds retention of content. active engagement by students and encourage creativity The middle of the lecture, where most of the content in the latter ones by supporting, student-centered envi- delivery happens, is another opportunity to use brief ronment, not-hierarchical teaching styles and applied active lecture strategies. Pausing every 15–20 min, the methods. Further research showed that students consid- teacher permits students to process the new information ered teaching style (friendly, encouraging, enthusiastic) actively, which help keep students focused. One activity and methods (A&PBL, SCLE, assessment system) a key that is useful in the middle of a lecture is a question- factor for their success results. generating technique when students or pairs of students During the research, it was noted that application of are required to create a question that they feel is very the PBE approach focused on real industrial problems difficult. Through the level of questions posed and the provided among students a higher interest in searching way they are answered, it is possible to indirectly assess for solutions, experimenting, and achievement of the student understanding. This process also helps the teacher result. The level of student PBE involvement and to create a bank of questions that can be used in other efficiency of SCLE also increased when teachers and uni- class activities, guided reading, quizzes, tests, and exams. versity administration had provided in-course and inter- The closure of the lecture ties up loose ends, summa- course collaboration within educational net organized rizes main points, and opens opportunities for connec- among partner universities. In this case, working groups tions beyond the content. An effective closure activity were formed of students from different universities or encourages students to make connections to the pre- faculties and had several supervisors. sented material, and extends the learning beyond the uni- versity setting to the student’s world. Questioning strategies can be replaced by any active strategy that 2.4. Prompt feedback engages students in synthesizing, applying, or summariz- Knowing what one knows and doesn’t know focuses his ing. Prompt feedback gives teachers a clear understand- learning. In this way, feedback is an integral part of ing of what students find or found unclear, and what learning. Having prompt feedback helps the teacher tailor they feel were the most important points, or how this the content and his explanations to the needs and topic would be seen under different conditions. Geo-spatial Information Science 225 A general time-activity scheme of a typical 90-min spend more or less time, but they need to know, this is active-learning lecture of any of the geospatial disci- the average. plines is shown in Figure 1. While delivering the content and giving students in- Some other feedback strategies can also be imple- class assignments, teachers need to show effective time mented into educational process: audience response sys- management strategies (e.g. how to break down larger tems, a.k.a. clickers; student summaries; pair/share; free tasks into smaller pieces); illustrate to students approaches write/one minute paper; focused listening; question and used to solve problems and complete projects. answer pairs; 3–2–1 protocol; 10–2 protocol; note check One more aspect of emphasizing time on task is to (3), etc. guide students to where they should be devoting their time on projects and assignments. By providing students with rubrics, or checklists, for projects with point values given for each portion of the project will allow students to focus 2.5. Emphasizing time-on-task their time on task, making them understand that the con- As it was mentioned above, one of principles in Ref. tent of the project, supporting arguments, and evidence are (18) for good practice in high school education empha- worth more points than the presentation itself or its unu- sizes time-on-task, which means that teachers should cre- sual visual design they may spend countless hours on. ate opportunities for students to practice good time During our research on efficiency of traditional and management. This includes setting realistic time frames IT ways of supervising and student project-based activi- for students to complete out- and in-class assignments. It ties consultation, it was found out that current informa- also means that teachers need to explain students the tional technologies play a very important role in the strategies for managing their time while completing tasks student learning-style preferences (Figure 2). of the course. Below is the list of some of the existing techniques It was noted that many students do not realize how allowing the teacher to increase efficiency of student much time they should be spending on each course they time-on-task (18, 31): take. Relying on our experience, we are able to say that students should regularly spend at least 2 h preparing for class notes are posted on the class website for every 1 h spent in class. In other words, a 2-h class student review saving some time each day; requires about 4 h of preparation (reading, completing e-consulting allows teachers more opportunities to assignments, studying) every single week. Depending on support students as individual learners as well as the skills of studying effectively some students might better identify student’s individual needs; 5’ Speaking and Listening 5 Revision and introduction Listening and taking notes Theoretical part of the topic 15’ Speaking, analyzing, understanding Discussion of the new material Work in groups Active learning (problem solving), 10’ interacting Group 1 Group 2 Group n Speaking, upholding one’s point of view Presenting the results of a group activities 10’ Analyzing, speaking Discussion 50 15’ Listening and taking notes Theoretical part of the topic Analyzing, speaking Speaking of practical applications and interdisciplinary connections 5’ Work in teams Active learning, (problem solving), 10’ interacting Team 1 Team 2 Speaking, upholding one’s point of view Presenting the results of a group activities 10’ Analyzing, speaking Discussion 5’ Analyzing, learning, writing Test work Listening and speaking Summarizing 5’ Figure 1. General time-activity scheme of a typical 90-min lecture (from left to right: lecture time, duration, lecture activity, student activity). 226 I.A. MUSIKHIN 123456789 10 11 12 13 project duration (weeks) in-class consultation e-mail consultation on-line consultation (Skype, etc.) Figure 2. Student in-class and IT learning-style preferences while working on a semester project (24 project groups). e-mail messages replace live visits to teachers sav- circumstances. For this purpose, many institutions of ing commuting time; higher education establish special centers to support interactive programs allow students to manipulate teachers in their teaching endeavors. Broadening the the variables and see what happens visually help- methods of content delivery and methodology of teach- ing them to learn better; ing allows transforming teacher’s knowledge of a subject online lab exercises allow students to access learn- in ways that promote student understanding and learning ing activities at a time and place convenient for (32). them offering considerable flexibility; Interviews, monitoring, and in-class student learning- posting assignments on the web eliminates the time style preferences observations allow teachers to develop spent by students to retype the assignment; special SCL strategies, using PBE methods and group providing availability of many research materials work activities. Students, forming the working groups, online and through electronic databases and the are selected thus to compensate their learning deficien- Internet enable students to access what they need, cies. Compensation of the learning deficiencies makes changes students’ research possibilities, and saves the student group able to develop and carry out complex their time and resources; and assessments, too difficult for each student taken sepa- sending e-remindings about the expected comple- rately, obtaining much better results due to the joint tion dates for projects allows students to better learning activities. As a rule, the success of group work plan their time. promotes further self-development of every student in the group, reducing or eliminating the existing learning deficiencies, and improving other educational skills and 2.6. Communicating high expectations self-assessment. Those teachers who expect more from their students always get more. High expectations are important for 2.7. Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning everyone – for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to show themselves, and for the bright and well-moti- Students we meet in our class rooms are different from vated students (18). Expecting students to perform well one another and have their own learning-style prefer- becomes a coming true prophecy when teachers and uni- ences. There are many roads leading to learning. Some versity administration hold high expectations for them students show progress in the lecture room, but may be and make extra efforts. all thumbs when working in the laboratory, others rich in To make this principle work for different kinds of hands-on experience may not be so good with theory. students (rich, poor, older, younger, male, female, well Reference (33) emphasized that “Faculty who show and under-prepared), special attention must be paid to regard for their students’ unique interests and talents are both methods of teaching used in the training process likely to facilitate student growth and development in and student learning deficiencies. every sphere – academic, social, personal, and voca- When speaking about methods of teaching, motivat- tional.” When teachers respect diversity and take particu- ing students for efficient study, it is always necessary to lar learning needs and learning-style preferences into keep in mind that the subject taught, after all, is at least account, they provide positive learning experiences and as important as how it is taught. Within this concern, have a better chance of reaching and developing these some universities implement good training practices students. While designing a course, it should be taken depending very much on their students and their into consideration that students need to have an number of consultations Geo-spatial Information Science 227 opportunity to demonstrate their talents, learn, think, and Third, though students are the center in SCP, teachers express themselves in a range of ways that work for are still very important and their role should be changed them. Such approach makes all students feel as though from disseminator to facilitator. Most teachers are famil- they belong and that their points of view are important iar with traditional teaching methods, and they prefer to (34). Later, over some time, the teacher will be able to employ these methods opposing the new ones because in induce them to learning in new more efficient ways that this case, they need to spend more time and energy on do not come so easily. preparation and translation. To make introduction The main thing that must be done is to understand described in the article teaching methods and approaches into educational process easier, teachers should be the range of learning-style preferences and approaches students typically bring to the course and then help stu- trained or retrained in special university centers to get dents understand how to apply them to improve their better prepared for A&PBL and SCP application. learning. To do so the teacher should: (a) design more than one method of learning for students – develop the Acknowledgments assignments that give students a choice to fulfill them in The author wishes to thank Dr Ludmila Vorobiova, Dr Vladimir their own way; (b) recognize, respect, and reward crea- Padve, and associate professor Victor Futiran for their valuable tivity; (c) allow students to choose from different modes input on the courses’ restructuring and experiments that pro- of project presentation; (d) understand and allow for dif- vided the research with data on the efficiency of active-learning ferent pacing; (e) offer chances for students to take lead- methods they introduced in their work. ership roles in groups; (f) design course materials, activities, and assignments to encourage analysis, synthe- Note on contributor sis, application and evaluation. Igor A. Musikhin (PhD, Tomsk State University, Russia, 2012) Different talents, learning-style preferences, and pace serves as a vice rector for International Affairs and assistant of work can be advantageous when educational process professor at the Department of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies includes technology. in the area of pedagogy at the Siberian State Academy of Geodesy. He has more than five-year-work experience as a pro- grammer at an American-Russian company. His research inter- ests include photogrammetry, remote sensing, image 3. Conclusions processing, machine vision, artificial intelligence, project-based From the discussion presented above, it is clear that con- higher education, and teaching. temporary active-learning approaches and methods used for teaching geospatial sciences have many advantages. References For instance, students are induced to vigorous cogitative (1) Armbruster, P.; Patel, M.; Johnson, E.; Weiss, M. Active activity and maximum development of creative thinking; Learning and Student-centered Pedagogy Improve Student active learning accustoms students to analyze essence of Attitudes and Performance in Introductory Biology. CBE the phenomena, find out interrelations, and formulate Life Sci. Edu. 2009, 8 (3), 203–213. conclusions. (2) Walker, J.D.; Cotner, S.H.; Baepler, P.M.; Decker, M.D. A However, active learning has its demands – students Delicate Balance: Integrating Active Learning into a Large Lecture Course. CBE Life Sci. Edu. 2008, 7 (4), 361–367. should have certain intellectual abilities and be prepared (3) Gregory, J.L. Lecture is Not a Dirty Word, How to Use to overcome difficulties. Not all students are ready to Active Lecture to Increase Student Engagement. Int. J. active learning that is why it is necessary to accustom High. Edu. 2013, 2 (4), 116–122. them to modern training from the first days of study. (4) Exley, K. Encouraging Active Learning in Lectures. AI- When employing A&PBL and SCP in any teaching SHE-J. 2010, 2 (1), 10.1–10.8. http://ojs.aishe.org/index. php/aishe-j/article/view/10. course, at least three things should be kept in mind. (5) Barnett, J. Implementation of Personal Response Units in First, A&PBL and SCP methods require longer time Very Large Lecture Classes: Student Perceptions. Aust. J. and efforts compared with traditional teaching methods Edu. Technol. 2006, 22 (6), 474–494. and in some instances, traditional methods are more (6) Silver, H.F.; Perini, M.J. The Interactive Lecture: How to effective in transmitting knowledge to the learner in a Engage Students, Build Memory, and Deepen Comprehen- sion; ASCD: Alexandria, VA, 2010. limited time. (7) Clark, J. Powerpoint and Pedagogy: Maintaining Student Second, although those undergraduate and graduate Interest in University Lectures. Coll. Teach. 2008, 56 (1), students who were taught with use of active methods of 39–44. A&PBL and SCP training showed better results than the (8) Gauci, S.A.; Dantas, A.M.; Williams, D.A.; Kemm, R.E. traditional teaching methods, it does not mean that tradi- Promoting Student-centered Active Learning in Lectures with a Personal Response System. Adv. Physiol. Edu. tional methods are useless and should be completely dis- 2009, 33,60–71. carded. By itself, A&PBL is inadequate for the demands (9) Scudder, R.R. The Pedagogy of University Teaching, of higher education; students must additionally master Issues in Higher Education, 2003–2005. http://www.asha. some fundamental knowledge appropriate to their chosen org/academic/teach-tools/scudder.htm#sthash.iM1UYbCw. discipline. dpuf (accessed Apr 12, 2014). 228 I.A. MUSIKHIN (10) Burgan, M. In Defense of Lecturing. Change Mag. High. (24) Allen, D.; Tanner, K. Infusing Active Learning into the Learn. 2006, 38 (6), 30–34. doi:10.3200/CHNG.38.6.30- Large-enrollment Biology Class: Seven Strategies, from 34. the Simple to Complex. Cell Biol. Edu. 2005, 4, 262– (11) Bligh, D. What’s the Use of Lectures?, 5th ed.; Intellect 268. Books: Bristol, 1998. (25) Bransford, J.D.; Brown, A.L.; Cocking, R.R. How People (12) Johnstone, A.H.; Percival, F. Attention Breaks in Lec- Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School; Committee tures. Edu. Chem. 1976, 13 (20), 49–50. on Developments in the Science of Learning; National (13) Wilson, K.; Korn, J.H. Attention During Lectures: Academies Press: Washington, DC, 2000. Beyond Ten Minutes. Teach. Psychol. 2007, 34,85–89. (26) Messineo, M.; Gaither, G.; Bott, J.; Ritchey, K. Inexperi- (14) Exley, K.; Dennick, R. Giving a Lecture: From Present- enced versus Experienced Students’ Expectations For ing to Teaching, 2nd ed.; Routledge: New York, 2009. Active Learning in Large Classes. Coll. Teach. 2007, 55, (15) Bloom, B.S., Ed. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: 125–133. The Classification of Educational Goals: Handbook I, (27) Braxton, J.M.; Jones, J.M.; Hirschy, A.S.; Hartley, H.V., Cognitive Domain; Longman: New York, 1956. III. The Role of Active Learning in College Student Per- (16) Race, P.P.; Pickford, R. Making Teaching Work: Teaching sistence. New Directions Teach. Learn. 2008, 115,71–83. Smarter in Post-compulsory Education; Sage: London, doi:10.1002/tl.326. 2007. (28) Tsai, K.C. The Value of Teaching Creativity in Adult (17) Twenge, J.M. Teaching Generation Me. Teach. Psychol. Education. Int. J. High. Edu. 2012, 1 (2), 84–91. http:// 2013, 40 (1), 66–69. doi:10.1177/0098628312465870. dx.doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v1n2p84 (accessed Apr 14, 2014). (18) Chickering, A.W.; Gamson, Z.F. Seven Principles for (29) Mumford, M.D.; Mobley, M.I.; Uhlman, C.E.; Reiter- Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Am. Assoc. Palmon, R.; Doares, L.M. Process Analytic Models of High. Edu. Bull. 1987, 39,3–7. Creative Capacities. Creat. Res. J. 1991, 4 (2), 91–122. (19) Boyer, E.L. The Boyer Commission on Educating Under- (30) Batey, M.; Furnham, A. Creativity, Intelligence, and Per- graduates in the Research University, Reinventing Under- sonality: A Critical Review of the Scattered Literature. graduate Education: A Blueprint for America’s Research Genet. Soc. Gen. Psychol. Monogr. 2006, 132 (4), 355– Universities; Stony Brook: New York, 1998. 429. (20) Handelsman, J.; Miller, S.; Pfund, C. Scientific Teaching; (31) Smith, J.; Groves, M.; Bowd, B.; Barber, A. Facilitating W.H. Freeman: New York, 2007. the Development of Study Skills through a Blended (21) Musikhin, I.A. Course of Practical Pedagogics and Psy- Learning Approach. Int. J. High. Edu. 2012, 1 (2), 108– chology for Beginner Teachers; Siberian State Academy 117. doi:10.5430/ijhe.v1n2p108. of Geodesy: Novosibirsk, 2013; p 231. (32) Edgerton, R.; Hutchings, P.; Quinlan, K. The Teaching (22) Musikhin, I.A. Student Project Activities with Use of IT Portfolio: Capturing the Scholarship in Teaching; Technologies as a New Approach in Teacher – Student American Association for Higher Education: Washington, Work. Innovation Resources of a Modern Lesson, Pro- DC, 1993. ceedings of XII International Scientific and Practical Con- (33) Chickering, A.; Gamson, Z., Eds. Applying the Seven ference; Novosibirsk State Pedagogic University: Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Educa- Novosibirsk, 2009; Vol. 3, pp 123–126. tion, 47th ed.; Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, CA, 1991. (23) Seymour, E. Tracking the Processes of Change in U.S. (34) Davis, B.G. Tools for Teaching, 2nd ed.; Jossey-Bass: San Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engi- Francisco, CA, 2009. neering, and Technology. Sci. Edu. 2001, 86,79–105. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Geo-spatial Information Sciences Taylor & Francis

Encouraging active learning when teaching geospatial sciences

Geo-spatial Information Sciences , Volume 17 (4): 10 – Oct 2, 2014

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Taylor & Francis
Copyright
© 2014 Wuhan University
ISSN
1993-5153
eISSN
1009-5020
DOI
10.1080/10095020.2014.989655
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Abstract

Geo-spatial Information Science, 2014 Vol. 17, No. 4, 219–228, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10095020.2014.989655 Igor A. MUSIKHIN* Siberian State Academy of Geodesy, Plakhotnogo Str., Novosibirsk 630108, Russia (Received 27 July 2014; final version received 30 October 2014) In today’s world, higher education, especially in technical sciences, is crucial when speaking about a change in values and attitudes towards sustainability. Engaging students in learning and training process as well as developing their research skills and creative capacity is challenging. This study inquiries into the current academic activities and role of used educational technologies and methodologies for encouraging active learning in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs when teaching any engineering course in general, and geospatial sciences in particular. The result of the study suggests the importance of interdisciplinary project and problem-based learning, building partnership with universities, students and industrial companies, monitoring, developing, and implementation of new educational technologies. Keywords: active learning; geospatial sciences; learning-style preferences; good practice in higher education; creativity If you tell me I will listen. If you show me I will see. If Surveyors, and many other international authorities, you let me experience, I will learn. (Lao-Tzu) although in some countries, the term geospatial technol- ogy is used instead of geomatics (e.g. USA). To sum up, it is possible to say that geomatics is the discipline of 1. Introduction gathering, storing, processing, and delivering geographic The traditional format of education for many introduc- or spatially referenced information. It means that when tory and specialized science courses presents a number teaching geomatics, special attention is paid both to theo- of challenges to both teaching and learning (1). If in retical and practical aspects leading to comprehensive social studies, traditional methods of teaching and learn- understanding of the subject. The same principles of ing may still be considered acceptable, in technical disci- teaching can be transferred to any other geospatial disci- plines, they are a prior subject of major changes. Due to pline. One of the advantages of teaching geomatics, as many interdisciplinary connections, technical courses in well as many of the geospatial and engineering courses, general, and described here course of geomatics (cover- is the fact that teachers have a lot of supplementary real- ing a number of geospatial sciences) in particular, need life materials and software products which can be incor- to be focused on student-centered pedagogy (SCP), tak- porated into the educational and training processes. ing into consideration all possible ways of making both While fulfilling practical and project-based assignments, learning and teaching more efficient. Within SCP students are able to get involved both into research activ- approach, it is possible to point out the activities, such ities and solving actual problems of the industry, making as lecturing, practicals, lab work, seminars, research, and it possible to transform creative thoughts into creative project- and problem-based learning. Many of the above- actions. mentioned activities have been used in high school for a Typically for high school, a large amount of theoreti- long time; nevertheless, their efficiency will undoubtedly cal content is delivered to students through a lecture for- be less noticeable if they are not modified to the subject, mat, which like any educational technic, may be applied student, and teacher (2, 3). both efficiently and inefficiently. The passivity of stu- To come to a better understanding of those modifica- dents in lectures has long been observed and criticized tions to be introduced into educational process, the defi- (4). Respecting the fact that university learners have nition of geomatics needs to be made. According to changed, it is necessary to use active lecturing strategies Arun and Anand, geomatics combines the terms of geod- maximizing student learning of the course content and esy and geoinformatics, and includes the tools and tech- engaging teachers and learners at higher levels. Making niques that are used in land surveying, remote sensing, students more engaged in the educational process and cartography, geographic information systems (GIS), delivering its content in variety of settings makes lecture global navigation satellite systems, photogrammetry, an efficient and successful method of knowledge transfer geography, and related forms of earth mapping. The term (5, 6). Nevertheless, even now, some university teachers has been adopted by the International Organization for deliver their material in a traditional passive lecture when Standardization, the Royal Institution of Chartered *Email: igor_musihin@mail.ru © 2014 Wuhan University 220 I.A. MUSIKHIN professor speaks and students take notes without thinking When speaking about the worst lecture, both students (7). In this case, the lecture fails to motivate and encour- and teachers refer to the “monotone lecturer,” who is age students to attain skills and competences they will unable to vary the transfer of knowledge and presenta- need to succeed after graduating and only makes them tion of his spoken voice (4). Lowering and increasing just remember the material for exams (8). the tone of the voice, the use of silences and pauses, In many cases, a lecture or practical becomes dull introducing in-class debates and conversations or taped when a teacher fails to deliver the information to the recordings, etc. are the ways affecting and varying the whole group of students. It usually occurs to either a student experience. Visual stimulation of students can be young or, more seldom, senior lecturer who is not well done with video and movie clips, PowerPoint slides, dia- trained (or, as a rule, if speaking about teaching geospa- grams, and graphics, links to the Internet, etc. This kind tial or technical sciences, not trained at all) in pedagogy. of student stimulation is essential for teaching technical It is not rare that these beginner teachers learn teaching and engineering subjects, where a lecture without visual from their teachers remembering what and how they aids is mostly inefficient and would be a very rare expe- learned and were taught in various classes, and appreci- rience. Incorporating visuals into a lecture can provide a ating that learning long after they graduated. That is why helpful reinforcement to the lecturer’s speech, especially junior or beginner faculty members often try to pattern for those students who are visuals in their learning-style their first teaching experiences based on former profes- preferences, the use of visual stimulation is more than a sors’ teaching methods, with the goal to be an effective helpful addition and is an important part of the commu- teacher, respected and liked by their students (9), not nication itself. Varying what students do in a lecture is taking into consideration the fact that learners and their the prior task for a teacher to consider – the students will learning-style preferences have changed. remember what they do in lectures much better than The delivered material may be interesting but if the what they are told (16), that is why the teacher should teacher is not able to explain to his students the impor- plan at least three things for students to do in any hour tance of the information for their future professional each lecture. activities and success from the very beginning of the When teaching geospatial sciences, special attention lecture, he takes the first step in the wrong direction – must be concentrated on the development of student’s students do and pay more attention only to those things practical skills, deep understanding of theoretical back- that meet their needs and coincide with their goals. Five ground, and interdisciplinary relationship. This can be introductory minutes in the beginning of the lecture will reached through the following activities: allow students to understand the importance of the new material and save the teacher from appealing to disci-  (lecture) by combination of the theoretical course pline and attention during the lecture. Due to a number delivery simultaneously with a number of practical of complex topics in the delivered course, the lecture problems solved by students individually or in must be dynamic and inspire students (10) to a more groups (depending on the problem and students’ active participation in the educational process. In his learning deficiencies), and aiming a better under- studies, reference (11) found out that students are usually standing of the theory (15) by means of its capable to accept the delivered information efficiently for practical applications (understanding, interpretation, 15–20 min (12, 13), whereupon they need either a short application); rest or change of their activity. While planning a lecture,  (practicals) by development of “real-life” tasks/situ- the teacher has to pay special attention to physiological ations to be solved and requiring a comprehensive needs of the students and provide them with different understanding of the past theoretical material of the kind of activities every quarter of an hour (e.g. lecture, main and associated courses . Within these activi- group or pair work, discussion of the material, writing a ties, students are to learn different approaches when test, solving a problem, etc.). Managing in-class coopera- solving a problem (understanding, interpretation, tion also requires plenty of thought and planning, espe- application, analysis); and cially when a large-size class is taught (4). In simple  (research) by attraction of the students to scientific terms, teachers have it in their power to vary stimulation and R&D works carried out at the university in three domains: what students hear, see, and do (14). (understanding, interpretation, application, analysis, During the lecture, the teacher should also plan and deli- synthesis, appraisal of the situation). ver his material to students following the classification of educational goals proposed in Ref. (15): understand- To better meet the needs and potential of the educa- ing; learning; usage; analysis; synthesis; and assessment tional process, it is especially essential to monitor stu- of the situation. The first three goals are essentially nec- dent activities and progress during the semester, essary for first-year undergraduate students, while the last determining their learning-style preferences to form three promote and form effective professional skills teaching strategies both at lectures and practicals (17). demanded among senior and graduate students. At the For this reason, Chikering and Gamson call for teachers same time, the last three goals require a lot of teachers’ to improve classroom teaching. Being aware of students’ time, work, and ability to apply them. learning-style preferences, teachers can advance Geo-spatial Information Science 221 university education themselves, if a focus on improve- When incorporating A&PBL and SCLE, students are ment is maintained. The late Chikering and Gamson organized into groups of 3–5 working together through- offered seven principles for good practice in high school out the whole semester. The choice of the students form- education (18), which should be adopted and largely ing a working group must be based on the previous applied when teaching geospatial sciences: monitoring of their learning-style preferences, in-class observations, common interests, and educational deficien- (1) encourage contact between students and teachers; cies. The monitoring may be done by using student (2) develop interaction and cooperation among stu- feedback, in-class observations, or interviews. dents; It is also important to plan the course in such a way (3) encourage active learning; that every lesson, the groups are given a quantitative, (4) give prompt feedback; qualitative, or conceptual problem. When planning the (5) emphasize time on task; time period for any particular problem, the compulsory (6) communicate high expectations; and condition is that it must be always time limited. Usually, (7) respect diverse talents and ways of learning. the time frame is calculated as time necessary to the tea- cher to find the solution of the problem multiplied by Even now, after several decades, these principles are 1.3 or 1.5 depending on the teacher’s experience (21). the basis for program and course revision, especially to The variety of active-learning exercises that can be used motivate active and efficient learning in high school. in A&PBL and SCLE educational process is well described in Ref. (20). The in-class discussion of the found solution should 2. Implementation of active learning strategies for be always started from the group of students having insig- teaching geospatial sciences nificant educational deficiencies. As a rule, such approach 2.1. Encouragement of contacts between students and allows other groups of students to get better prepared for teachers the discussion and shows them what aspects of the solu- tion need to be emphasized when presented. As a result, Speaking out, to answer, or ask a question in a lecture is all of the following groups of students feel themselves an incredibly daunting thing to do and it is not surprising more confident while making their presentation. that only the bravest students would ever consider doing As for the course redesign, its organization has to this. Therefore, if a teacher really wants to hear back meet the main pedagogical tasks of the teacher and stu- from his students in lectures, it is worthwhile thinking dent class-time activities. While delivering the in-class about some different ways of stimulating this response. material, when the teacher supposes to use a number of Some of the ways to encourage contacts between stu- front, group, and pair activities, it is necessary to plan dents and teachers are incorporating active and problem- and organize the educational process, thus to provide all based (A&PBL) learning into every lesson (1), adopt in-class time employment of each student. It can be several strategies to create a more student-centered learn- reached by the combination of active-learning exercises, ing environment (SCLE), and redesign the course. assuming various activities offered to particular students The above-mentioned methods have been widely or groups at the same time (e.g. reading, problem- used when teaching humanities and are being success- solving, making a test, concept maps, etc.). By organiz- fully adopted for some science and biology courses (1). ing the educational process in such a way the teacher In addition, a series of influential reports and papers creates more opportunities for in-class communication have called attention to the need for changes in and encourages students to address him much oftener; at approaches to university education in ways that promote the same time, students working in groups are able to active-learning strategies for a diversity of students (19, develop their in-group communicational skills. 20). This need is particularly acute in geospatial sci- ences, where a steady decreasing number of entrants and graduate students have been noticed for several decades. 2.2. Development of interaction and cooperation Due to a large number of facilities and equipment among students used at the departments of universities when teaching any geospatial course and carrying out corresponding Taking into consideration the results of in-class monitor- research activities, the development and implementation ing and focusing on differences in students’ preparation of A&PBL and SCLE in the educational and training level and their learning-style preferences, teachers are be process should not cause any technical problems. The able to apply SCP and project-based (PBE) methods in ones that arise are the problems of teacher’s qualifica- educational process. The results of the monitoring allow tion, awareness, and readiness to learn and apply new the teacher to select groups of students in such a way educational technologies of active learning in their work. that their joint team-learning activities will compensate Some of the efficient approaches for a geospatial course every particular student educational deficiencies. Such replanning and redesign to make it A&PBL and SCLE approach solves several problems simultaneously. First, oriented are described below. the students understand that their project-based work will 222 I.A. MUSIKHIN be successful only if all of them are active while fulfill- Starting from the early 90s, a series of articles have ing their part of work. Second, the results achieved by paid attention to the need for changes in approaches to the end of the project work inspire and motivate students engineering education in ways that promote meaningful to a deeper self-training in the subject as well as improve learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking for stu- their performance in communicational, professional, and dents (19, 20). Taking into account that most of geospa- critical thinking skills and competences. Third, by work- tial sciences belong to engineering, it is possible to draw ing on a project, each student can experience many new a parallel and come to conclusion that active-learning and important activities helping and encouraging him to methods should be largely introduced and implemented overcome some of his educational and communicational in educational and training processes when teaching geo- deficiencies, leading to improved learning outcomes. If spatial disciplines. This need is most seen at the intro- speaking about geospatial sciences, students’ project ductory level, where a major leakage of students toward activities can be concentrated and organized for solving engineer and science careers has been noted (23). That is of a part of a larger project supervised by the teacher why universities had to pay their special attention to and carried out by several groups of students during redesigning of existing curriculums and courses imple- in- and out-of-class activities. This approach motivates menting above-mentioned approaches into educational students to interact with their group mates and students process. Later, the combination of these approaches was working in other ones; it induces them to address to adopted under the name of “active learning.” Reference additional sources of information. The effect of the (24)defines active learning as “seeking new information, described approach is more noticeable when students are organizing it in a way that is meaningful, and having the working on the solution of a real problem (e.g. creating chance to explain it to others.” Active learning empha- or updating a data layer for GIS; laying of a route for sizes student responsibility for their own and their peers’ geodetic or aerial survey; etc.). learning, and promotes a higher level of training when The described here method is efficient when solving students go beyond the content trying to understand the the task of interaction and cooperation development connections within and how they were formed. Refer- among students during educational process. The studies ence (1) asserts that active learning improves not only (22) carried out at the Siberian State Academy of Geod- student outcome but attitudes as well. esy from 1998 to 2006 indicate that the presented SCP Majority of students see learning as the accumulation & PBE methods are effective for all students of the class of unambiguous information and resist active-learning (courses of cartography, GIS, photogrammetry, remote techniques when they believe these techniques are not sensing, geomatics, and applied geodesy) if compared sufficient to provide them with needed information (2). with traditional methods of training, especially after a One of the ways to accomplish a more positive student two-year period (Tables 1 and 2), but they proved to be reception of active-learning courses would be to organize much more effective for students having low (A) and classes so as to achieve a judicious balance of student- high (C) levels of educational deficiencies (Table 3). centered activities and presentation-style instruction (2). Such form of learning emphasizes interactions both among students, and between students and a teacher 2.3. Encouragement of active learning involving a cycle of activity and feedback, where stu- Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listen- dents are given real opportunities to apply their learning ing to teachers, memorizing the earlier prepared assign- in the classroom, which allows the latter to become inde- ments, and giving out answers. They must discuss what pendent and critical thinkers (25). they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experi- The task of a teacher is to structure classroom ences, and apply it to what they think is important. activities in such a way that they would not compete Table 1. Students’ educational outcomes before (beginning of the academic year) and after (end of the academic year) implementa- tion of SCP & PBE methods. First year Second year Year Beginning End Growth Beginning End Growth Average growth 1998–2000 0.72 0.82 +0.10 0.80 0.87 +0.07 +0.15 1999–2001 0.71 0.79 +0.08 0.81 0.85 +0.04 +0.14 2000–2002 0.74 0.81 +0.07 0.79 0.87 +0.08 +0.13 2001–2003 0.76 0.87 +0.11 0.85 0.96 +0.11 +0.20 2002–2004 0.72 0.79 +0.07 0.80 0.88 +0.08 +0.16 2003–2005 0.72 0.81 +0.09 0.81 0.90 +0.09 +0.18 2004–2006 0.75 0.85 +0.10 0.84 0.93 +0.09 +0.18 Average 0.73 0.82 +0.09 0.81 0.89 +0.08 +0.16 Geo-spatial Information Science 223 Table 2. Students’ educational outcomes shown within traditional methods of training. First year Second year Year Beginning End Growth Beginning End Growth Average growth 1998–2000 0.70 0.79 +0.09 0.73 0.79 +0.06 +0.07 1999–2001 0.73 0.81 +0.08 0.75 0.82 +0.07 +0.09 2000–2002 0.68 0.77 +0.09 0.72 0.78 +0.06 +0.10 2001–2003 0.75 0.81 +0.06 0.77 0.80 +0.03 +0.05 2002–2004 0.71 0.79 +0.09 0.74 0.79 +0.05 +0.08 2003–2005 0.73 0.81 +0.08 0.78 0.83 +0.05 +0.10 2004–2006 0.70 0.79 +0.09 0.73 0.81 +0.08 +0.11 Average 0.71 0.80 +0.08 0.75 0.80 +0.06 +0.09 Table 3. Average growth of students’ educational outcomes before (beginning of the academic year) and after (end of the academic year) implementation of SCP & PBE methods. AB C Beginning End Beginning End Beginning End Average 0.860 0.996 0.830 0.858 0.400 0.786 Growth +0.136 +0.028 +0.386 with students’ needs; to explain students that class time One thousand and eighty-two participants completed will be spent on activities designed to a better under- the survey on their learning-style preferences from 1998 standing of the most difficult concepts; customized to 2007 (approximately 100 students a year). The partici- mini-lectures will help create a better perception; that pants ranged from 17 to 20 years old, with an average classroom activities are focused on students’ needs. Ref- age of 18.2 years. erences (26, 27) proved that first-year students are more Each year, after analyzing the results of the survey receptive to active-learning techniques. That is why a and autumn semester monitoring, active-learning strate- proper introduction of active-learning value allows teach- gies were modified correlating the changes in student ers to capture the enthusiasm of all students. learning-style preferences, which allowed the educators Reference (3) adduces four basic elements of any to reduce the resistance to active-learning techniques active-learning strategy, they are: talking and listening, from students considerably. writing, reading, and reflecting. These elements and stu- The impact of the autumn semester monitoring on dent-centered approach can be used in many different active-learning strategies modification proved to be very combinations to create specific active-learning strategies important. The in-class observations showed that within that are able to satisfy any student’s learning-style prefer- their first semester at the university, a significant number ences. of students changed their previous attitude to learning- Researches, carried out at the Siberian State Acad- style preferences (Table 5). emy of Geodesy (22), showed that when developing Reference (28) pointed out two types of motivation active-learning strategies to provide a higher efficiency when learning: extrinsic and intrinsic, considering the of their implementation into educational process, student latter one far more essential for creativity. Having the learning-style preferences should be taken into account results of the survey and monitoring a set of individual (Table 4). and group projects, paying attention to intrinsic type of Table 4. Student learning-style preferences in the beginning of their first semester at university (response percent). Learning style 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Reading 23.4 25.7 22.2 19.4 17.3 16.5 15.3 8.6 9.9 12.0 Subject-specific software 37.5 41.4 40.8 38.4 35.2 35.2 31.5 31.1 30.2 28.0 Web (blogs, wikis), Podcasts 0.0 0.0 2.4 7.3 21.2 28.5 46.5 59.8 53.7 56.0 Internet research 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.3 4.5 14.1 17.3 24.9 43.4 56.0 Other learning-style activities 35.0 27.3 27.3 30.4 18.9 13.0 20.1 21.4 24.1 28.5 Individual learning style 23.1 20.9 22.3 19.7 21.6 18.8 19.1 16.8 16.3 14.0 Group learning style 76.9 79.1 77.7 80.3 78.4 81.2 80.9 83.2 83.7 86.0 224 I.A. MUSIKHIN Table 5. Student learning-style preferences after a semester at university (response percent). Learning style 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 Reading 52.4 49.1 49.5 44.5 46.3 37.5 38.7 38.1 38.9 39.8 Subject-specific software 28.5 31.1 29.8 29.3 25.3 24.2 21.1 21.6 20.1 18.8 Web (blogs, wikis), Podcasts 0 0 3.4 12.4 31.1 40.6 61.9 79.3 73.4 77.2 Internet research 0 0 2 6.8 15.4 28.7 36.1 48.4 75.1 90.2 Individual learning style 22.1 19.7 20.8 17.6 18.9 22.9 14.3 13.3 14.6 9.8 Group learning style 77.9 80.3 79.2 82.4 81.1 77.1 85.7 86.7 85.4 90.2 motivation, was specially developed and offered to stu- backgrounds of the students. The difficulty in presenta- dents. The offered projects were of a different level and tion of the course material at the right level, to meet the corresponded to determined student learning-style prefer- needs of diverse student groups, can be significantly ences, so any student or a group of students was able to reduced or eliminated if the teacher gives his students an choose the most-suitable circumstances and familiar immediate chance to check out their understating and environment while working on a project. Every devel- perspective (4). Although it seems a rather simple idea, oped project provided students with eight core processes the practice shows that it usually is, a little more difficult generating new understanding derived from existing to achieve. Thus, even having insight into students’ knowledge: problem finding; information gathering; con- needs, interests, experiences, abilities, and general level cept search and selection; conceptual combination; idea of education, it is actually difficult to deliver the material generation; idea evaluation; implementation; action mon- knowing that for some, it will be too simple, for others, itoring (28, 29). Active application of SCP and PBE too complex, and hopefully, for majority, it will be just approaches into educational process provides students right. with a complex four-dimensional interactive relationship: Similar to any story, each part of a lecture has a dis- creative persons, cognitive process of creativity, products tinct purpose. In the beginning of a lecture, it is essential of creative performance, social and cultural contexts (28, to capture students’ interest, engage, and motivate them 30). Thus, introduction of SCP and PBE approaches to learn. During the first minutes, the teacher can use a focused on student’s personality, knowledge and motiva- number of activities that connect to the students and tion, thinking and learning styles into educational and make them relate prior knowledge to the lesson ahead, training processes allows educators to promote creativity then the teacher may ask them to write or give an oral and research skills to learners, transforming their novel prediction of what they think will be next with an expla- ideas into useful products. While working on a project, nation. The act of anticipating what is coming next is an teachers as facilitators should provide opportunities for active process and builds retention of content. active engagement by students and encourage creativity The middle of the lecture, where most of the content in the latter ones by supporting, student-centered envi- delivery happens, is another opportunity to use brief ronment, not-hierarchical teaching styles and applied active lecture strategies. Pausing every 15–20 min, the methods. Further research showed that students consid- teacher permits students to process the new information ered teaching style (friendly, encouraging, enthusiastic) actively, which help keep students focused. One activity and methods (A&PBL, SCLE, assessment system) a key that is useful in the middle of a lecture is a question- factor for their success results. generating technique when students or pairs of students During the research, it was noted that application of are required to create a question that they feel is very the PBE approach focused on real industrial problems difficult. Through the level of questions posed and the provided among students a higher interest in searching way they are answered, it is possible to indirectly assess for solutions, experimenting, and achievement of the student understanding. This process also helps the teacher result. The level of student PBE involvement and to create a bank of questions that can be used in other efficiency of SCLE also increased when teachers and uni- class activities, guided reading, quizzes, tests, and exams. versity administration had provided in-course and inter- The closure of the lecture ties up loose ends, summa- course collaboration within educational net organized rizes main points, and opens opportunities for connec- among partner universities. In this case, working groups tions beyond the content. An effective closure activity were formed of students from different universities or encourages students to make connections to the pre- faculties and had several supervisors. sented material, and extends the learning beyond the uni- versity setting to the student’s world. Questioning strategies can be replaced by any active strategy that 2.4. Prompt feedback engages students in synthesizing, applying, or summariz- Knowing what one knows and doesn’t know focuses his ing. Prompt feedback gives teachers a clear understand- learning. In this way, feedback is an integral part of ing of what students find or found unclear, and what learning. Having prompt feedback helps the teacher tailor they feel were the most important points, or how this the content and his explanations to the needs and topic would be seen under different conditions. Geo-spatial Information Science 225 A general time-activity scheme of a typical 90-min spend more or less time, but they need to know, this is active-learning lecture of any of the geospatial disci- the average. plines is shown in Figure 1. While delivering the content and giving students in- Some other feedback strategies can also be imple- class assignments, teachers need to show effective time mented into educational process: audience response sys- management strategies (e.g. how to break down larger tems, a.k.a. clickers; student summaries; pair/share; free tasks into smaller pieces); illustrate to students approaches write/one minute paper; focused listening; question and used to solve problems and complete projects. answer pairs; 3–2–1 protocol; 10–2 protocol; note check One more aspect of emphasizing time on task is to (3), etc. guide students to where they should be devoting their time on projects and assignments. By providing students with rubrics, or checklists, for projects with point values given for each portion of the project will allow students to focus 2.5. Emphasizing time-on-task their time on task, making them understand that the con- As it was mentioned above, one of principles in Ref. tent of the project, supporting arguments, and evidence are (18) for good practice in high school education empha- worth more points than the presentation itself or its unu- sizes time-on-task, which means that teachers should cre- sual visual design they may spend countless hours on. ate opportunities for students to practice good time During our research on efficiency of traditional and management. This includes setting realistic time frames IT ways of supervising and student project-based activi- for students to complete out- and in-class assignments. It ties consultation, it was found out that current informa- also means that teachers need to explain students the tional technologies play a very important role in the strategies for managing their time while completing tasks student learning-style preferences (Figure 2). of the course. Below is the list of some of the existing techniques It was noted that many students do not realize how allowing the teacher to increase efficiency of student much time they should be spending on each course they time-on-task (18, 31): take. Relying on our experience, we are able to say that students should regularly spend at least 2 h preparing for class notes are posted on the class website for every 1 h spent in class. In other words, a 2-h class student review saving some time each day; requires about 4 h of preparation (reading, completing e-consulting allows teachers more opportunities to assignments, studying) every single week. Depending on support students as individual learners as well as the skills of studying effectively some students might better identify student’s individual needs; 5’ Speaking and Listening 5 Revision and introduction Listening and taking notes Theoretical part of the topic 15’ Speaking, analyzing, understanding Discussion of the new material Work in groups Active learning (problem solving), 10’ interacting Group 1 Group 2 Group n Speaking, upholding one’s point of view Presenting the results of a group activities 10’ Analyzing, speaking Discussion 50 15’ Listening and taking notes Theoretical part of the topic Analyzing, speaking Speaking of practical applications and interdisciplinary connections 5’ Work in teams Active learning, (problem solving), 10’ interacting Team 1 Team 2 Speaking, upholding one’s point of view Presenting the results of a group activities 10’ Analyzing, speaking Discussion 5’ Analyzing, learning, writing Test work Listening and speaking Summarizing 5’ Figure 1. General time-activity scheme of a typical 90-min lecture (from left to right: lecture time, duration, lecture activity, student activity). 226 I.A. MUSIKHIN 123456789 10 11 12 13 project duration (weeks) in-class consultation e-mail consultation on-line consultation (Skype, etc.) Figure 2. Student in-class and IT learning-style preferences while working on a semester project (24 project groups). e-mail messages replace live visits to teachers sav- circumstances. For this purpose, many institutions of ing commuting time; higher education establish special centers to support interactive programs allow students to manipulate teachers in their teaching endeavors. Broadening the the variables and see what happens visually help- methods of content delivery and methodology of teach- ing them to learn better; ing allows transforming teacher’s knowledge of a subject online lab exercises allow students to access learn- in ways that promote student understanding and learning ing activities at a time and place convenient for (32). them offering considerable flexibility; Interviews, monitoring, and in-class student learning- posting assignments on the web eliminates the time style preferences observations allow teachers to develop spent by students to retype the assignment; special SCL strategies, using PBE methods and group providing availability of many research materials work activities. Students, forming the working groups, online and through electronic databases and the are selected thus to compensate their learning deficien- Internet enable students to access what they need, cies. Compensation of the learning deficiencies makes changes students’ research possibilities, and saves the student group able to develop and carry out complex their time and resources; and assessments, too difficult for each student taken sepa- sending e-remindings about the expected comple- rately, obtaining much better results due to the joint tion dates for projects allows students to better learning activities. As a rule, the success of group work plan their time. promotes further self-development of every student in the group, reducing or eliminating the existing learning deficiencies, and improving other educational skills and 2.6. Communicating high expectations self-assessment. Those teachers who expect more from their students always get more. High expectations are important for 2.7. Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning everyone – for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to show themselves, and for the bright and well-moti- Students we meet in our class rooms are different from vated students (18). Expecting students to perform well one another and have their own learning-style prefer- becomes a coming true prophecy when teachers and uni- ences. There are many roads leading to learning. Some versity administration hold high expectations for them students show progress in the lecture room, but may be and make extra efforts. all thumbs when working in the laboratory, others rich in To make this principle work for different kinds of hands-on experience may not be so good with theory. students (rich, poor, older, younger, male, female, well Reference (33) emphasized that “Faculty who show and under-prepared), special attention must be paid to regard for their students’ unique interests and talents are both methods of teaching used in the training process likely to facilitate student growth and development in and student learning deficiencies. every sphere – academic, social, personal, and voca- When speaking about methods of teaching, motivat- tional.” When teachers respect diversity and take particu- ing students for efficient study, it is always necessary to lar learning needs and learning-style preferences into keep in mind that the subject taught, after all, is at least account, they provide positive learning experiences and as important as how it is taught. Within this concern, have a better chance of reaching and developing these some universities implement good training practices students. While designing a course, it should be taken depending very much on their students and their into consideration that students need to have an number of consultations Geo-spatial Information Science 227 opportunity to demonstrate their talents, learn, think, and Third, though students are the center in SCP, teachers express themselves in a range of ways that work for are still very important and their role should be changed them. Such approach makes all students feel as though from disseminator to facilitator. Most teachers are famil- they belong and that their points of view are important iar with traditional teaching methods, and they prefer to (34). Later, over some time, the teacher will be able to employ these methods opposing the new ones because in induce them to learning in new more efficient ways that this case, they need to spend more time and energy on do not come so easily. preparation and translation. To make introduction The main thing that must be done is to understand described in the article teaching methods and approaches into educational process easier, teachers should be the range of learning-style preferences and approaches students typically bring to the course and then help stu- trained or retrained in special university centers to get dents understand how to apply them to improve their better prepared for A&PBL and SCP application. learning. To do so the teacher should: (a) design more than one method of learning for students – develop the Acknowledgments assignments that give students a choice to fulfill them in The author wishes to thank Dr Ludmila Vorobiova, Dr Vladimir their own way; (b) recognize, respect, and reward crea- Padve, and associate professor Victor Futiran for their valuable tivity; (c) allow students to choose from different modes input on the courses’ restructuring and experiments that pro- of project presentation; (d) understand and allow for dif- vided the research with data on the efficiency of active-learning ferent pacing; (e) offer chances for students to take lead- methods they introduced in their work. ership roles in groups; (f) design course materials, activities, and assignments to encourage analysis, synthe- Note on contributor sis, application and evaluation. Igor A. Musikhin (PhD, Tomsk State University, Russia, 2012) Different talents, learning-style preferences, and pace serves as a vice rector for International Affairs and assistant of work can be advantageous when educational process professor at the Department of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies includes technology. in the area of pedagogy at the Siberian State Academy of Geodesy. He has more than five-year-work experience as a pro- grammer at an American-Russian company. His research inter- ests include photogrammetry, remote sensing, image 3. Conclusions processing, machine vision, artificial intelligence, project-based From the discussion presented above, it is clear that con- higher education, and teaching. temporary active-learning approaches and methods used for teaching geospatial sciences have many advantages. References For instance, students are induced to vigorous cogitative (1) Armbruster, P.; Patel, M.; Johnson, E.; Weiss, M. 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Journal

Geo-spatial Information SciencesTaylor & Francis

Published: Oct 2, 2014

Keywords: active learning; geospatial sciences; learning-style preferences; good practice in higher education; creativity

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