Active Learning Initiative

The Future of Learning Lab is part of Cornell’s university-wide Active Learning Initiative (ALI), which focuses on enhancing student engagement and learning in large, introductory courses. The ALI initiative in the Department of Information Science is led by Professors Steven Jackson and Rene Kizilcec, and supported by postdoctoral fellows Lilach Alon and SeoYoon Sung.

How students learn in college classrooms is changing. Different from conventional lecturing, new pedagogies emphasize interactions among students and with instructors to build mastery, critical thinking skills, and learn to think like an expert. We seek to develop and utilize a variety of new pedagogical approaches to enhance college teaching in our courses, and research shows that active learning enhances various outcomes such as student performance, engagement and self-efficacy. The ALI project aims to (1) develop and implement high-impact teaching and facilitation pedagogies in the day-to-day classroom and lab settings, (2) incorporate timely assessments of student learning, and (3) adopt new learning technologies and tools to enhance student participation and engagement in the classroom.

The IS ALI postdoctoral fellows work closely with faculty on transforming popular courses through multiple iterations while advancing a scientific understanding of effective active learning techniques. The focus of the project is on six of the largest and fastest-growing undergraduate classes in the department. These courses represent a range of pedagogical and disciplinary styles. The transition process of these courses to active learning instruction includes the redesigning of the course syllabus, restructuring of class elements and sessions, developing assessment mechanisms and integrating technology-based tools and techniques to support active learning goals and strategies. The targeted courses are:

INFO 1200: Information Ethics, Law and Policy
INFO 2300: Intermediate Design and Programming for the Web
INFO 2950: Introduction to Data Science
INFO 3300: Data Driven Web Applications
INFO 4240: Designing Technology for Social Impact
INFO 4300: Language and Information

We aim to develop novel approaches to examine the effectiveness of active learning in various instructional formats. Our goals include promoting effective learning and teaching methods and improving students’ overall learning experience by enhancing a sense of belonging to and engagement in the classroom. We also aim to focus on decreasing any existing achievement gaps by encouraging active learning. To achieve these goals, we are interested in investigating the following research questions: What does active learning look like in interdisciplinary disciplines such as Information Science? How does active learning influence the experiences of undergraduate students? And how do different instruction modalities (i.e., in-person, hybrid, and remote learning) change students’ experiences with active learning?

The AL postdoctoral fellows in IS are responsible for promoting active learning strategies, assessment and research in three primary ways. First by supporting the practice of active learning: support faculty for Active Learning dimensions in ALI courses by helping them prepare for upcoming courses and assessments (e.g., COPUS observations, pre and end surveys, and interviews). Second by conducting research on active learning: engage and lead ALI research activities such as data collection, analysis, new research design, writing and publishing findings. Third by teaching with active learning: develop and teach a new, independent course that incorporates active learning methods. The postdoctoral fellow also participate in weekly university-wide ALI meetings, reading groups, and writing groups with other ALI fellows and faculty across Cornell.