A Tale of Two Classrooms: Active Learning in STEM Classes using Whiteboards

Krista E. Wood, Louis W. Kutcher


Introductory STEM courses are traditionally considered gateway classes that introduce difficult concepts and often have significant retention challenges. Students taking these STEM classes are challenged to develop higher-level critical thinking skills, but at the same time, research has shown that they often exhibit negative affective responses to traditional teaching.  This article describes using small-group whiteboards to create collaborative classroom communities in introductory Physics and Anatomy and Physiology courses.  Having students solve problems and describe processes in small groups, using a whiteboard to facilitate interaction, makes visible students’ conceptions and misconceptions about course material.  Faculty can then scaffold new material based on where students have demonstrated mastery.  By working this way, students participate in a collaborative classroom atmosphere that encourages peer-to-peer learning.  Data from student perception surveys, presented here, indicated that students felt comfortable with this mode of instruction, prepared in advance for classes, and gained a better understanding of experimental design as a result of the entire whiteboarding process.

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