Changing Culture through Active Learning

Changing Culture through Active Learning

Julie M. Estis (University of South Alabama, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1968-3.ch005
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The purpose of this chapter is to explore the need for change from passive instructional approaches to active learning strategies and to provide theoretical frameworks, information, and tools to guide a next-generation leader in the process of changing the organizational culture through active learning. An overview of active learning, cooperative learning, and collaborative learning will be presented. Several specific forms of active learning will be explored in detail: Case-Based Learning (CBL), Problem-Based Learning (PBL), and Team-Based Learning (TBL). The overlapping characteristics among the approaches will be presented, along with the distinctive features of each approach. Assets and limitations will be discussed, along with specific examples and techniques. Outcomes from research on active learning strategies will be summarized. Considerations for determining active learning strategies that are the best fit for particular learners, instructors, and content areas will be examined.
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Next-generation leaders are faced with the challenges of engaging stakeholders and changing the culture of their organization, particularly in instructional settings. Specifically, there is a need to transform instructional environments from a passive instructional approach to an active learning approach. A traditional, passive approach to instruction is focused on delivering content and conveying information, while an active learning approach shifts the focus to learning outcomes and the application of content to real-world situations. Active learning strategies are student-centered and vary from simple activities completed by individual students to complex problem-solving activities completed by groups of students (Prince, 2004). Active learning tactics may be applied to traditional educational settings, as well as organizational or corporate training. A variety of specific active learning approaches may be employed, such as:

  • Cooperative learning,

  • Collaborative learning,

  • Case-Based Learning (CBL),

  • Problem-Based Learning (PBL), and

  • Team-Based Learning (TBL).

The motivation for such a change may be internal as leaders and instructors desire to improve student engagement and achieve higher levels of learning or increased depth of knowledge (Bloom et al, 1956; Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Webb, 1997, 1999). Alternatively, external factors such as accreditation requirements or local, state and federal mandates may drive the change. Regardless of the motivation for change, thoughtful and strategic leadership is necessary to guide an organization through the process of changing the instructional framework and the strategies utilized to maximize learning. The organizational leader has the opportunity to employ active learning approaches to change the culture of the organization and to impact overall instructional effectiveness.

Communication is a key aspect of changing culture through active learning. Strategies for clear and effective communication among the following stakeholders will be discussed:

  • Leaders and instructors,

  • Instructors and instructors,

  • Instructors and learners,

  • Learners and learners.

While evoking change, leaders must convey “why” the implementation is important and promote buy-in. As innovators and early-adopters emerge (Rogers, 2003), communication and promotion of the selected strategy expand beyond a single leader. Mechanisms for soliciting input and seeking feedback will be presented, along with an exploration of how such input can be used to influence the change in culture. In addition, the impact of time and the role of the social system of the organization will be considered as factors in implementing change.

Practical considerations for implementing change through the utilization of active learning strategies will be presented. Assessing the impact of the change and revising the implementation as a result of assessment will also be discussed. An example of changing culture through active learning will be detailed. Specifically, the leadership techniques, communication strategies, implementation planning, assessment, and modifications for a university-wide initiative will be presented. The impact of the initiative and the resulting change in culture will be discussed. Faculty leaders and administrators in higher education will benefit from the balance of research and theoretical frameworks with practical examples and suggestions for leading change initiatives.

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