Biology & Earth Science courses featured in The Dartmouth

Now that students can google basic information, what is the role of libraries, teachers, and institutions? We need new strategies for the modern learner, and Dartmouth is rising to meet this challenge.

That’s the theme behind the story “Rethinking the Classroom,” written by Dartmouth student Sungil Ahn for this year’s homecoming edition of The Dartmouth, our student paper. Ahn interviewed several professors at Dartmouth who have made radical changes to their classrooms. Two of these professors are members of our Learning Fellows community: Dr. Tom Jack, Department of Biology, and Dr. Bob Hawley, Department of Earth Sciences.  Through the Learning Fellows Program, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Tom and Bob, and they are definitely passionate about boosting student engagement at Dartmouth.

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Improving student engagement often means integrating active learning strategies, which can be complicated and time-consuming in the classroom. In “Rethinking the Classroom,” Ahn describes one of Bob’s typical active learning strategies in EARS 6, an introductory course that employs Learning Fellows: “Hawley’s class also involves demonstrations. He asks students to predict what will happen and why. In a demonstration of heat flow, he describes how he plans to put a candle under a measurement device and asks for predictions of how the temperature will rise. Will it be a constant rise or will it rise faster at the beginning or the end? After the experiment, students discuss what they have learned in small groups and then share their consensus with the whole class.”

Instead of giving a demonstration, Bob could have asked students to read a relevant chapter in their textbook. But he enjoys hands-on, inquisitive learning that creates memorable experiences for students. It takes time to craft these active experiences, but it’s worth it. Bob reports that more students are participating in his class than ever before, and the scores on the midterm were higher than usual.

There’s several places where Learning Fellows help professors like Tom Jack and Bob Hawley teach more effectively. In EARS 6, the Learning Fellows have helped Bob test out new demonstrations and conduct demonstrations in class. They also help small groups talk about the experience and derive conclusions. In BIO 13, Tom’s class, Learning Fellows circulate among small groups to help students solve exam-level problem sets. Each class employs the Learning Fellows a little differently, but two things stay constant. We are dedicated to student engagement, and we’re helping to rethink the Dartmouth classroom.

Thanks, Ahn, for the coverage, and congrats to Tom and Bob. Just one final word before I go – Erin DeSilva, an instructional designer at Dartmouth, was also featured in the article. Erin helped build the Learning Fellows Program and has been involved in many of our courses. Without her and our other supporters – including Cindy Tobery at DCAL and Adrienne Gauthier in EdTech – we’d be nowhere! Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Learning Fellows Program and helped innovate learning at Dartmouth!

-Kes, program director

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