Research has been pretty clear that that active learning can increase learning in the STEM fields, but one question that remains is how to promote these practices among students? A recent study from the University of California, Irvine found that light-touch interventions improved the use of active learning practices among students. In particular, the study focused on encouraging students to use spacing and self-testing offering “a brief lecture on study skills as well as weekly reminders from the instructor.”
The study’s results confirmed the idea that the use of active learning practices like spacing and self-testing correlates with higher course grades. Additionally, the study found that the students who received the weekly study skills reminders from the instructor were more likely “to report use or adoption of spacing and self-testing compared to students in control sections without the intervention.”
At the Learning Agency, we were excited about the study since we’ve been developing a tool to give students the power of “learning to learn,” and we’re in the process of creating a mini-class on the science of learning that provides instruction on skills like spacing and self-testing.
As for the the study, it most importantly yielded particularly positive results for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. For exactly, it find that underrepresented minorities typically under-utilize self-testing, but that light-touch interventions like the one used in the study can increase the use of self-testing.
This detail reinforces the theory that people of color benefit more from active learning interventions, and that these interventions could be used as one tool to help close the achievement gap in STEM fields.