Tag Archives: student-centered learning

Implementation and evaluation of a student-centered learning unit: A case study

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Submitted by Ashlee Sawyer

Article Reference

Brush, T., Saye, J. (2000). Implementation and evaluation of a student-centered learning unit: A case study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), 79-100.

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Summary of Article

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the difficulties experienced by both a teacher and the students throughout the implementation of a technology-enhanced student-centered project.


Method: One southeastern 11th grade US history class was used for the study, with one teacher and 21 students participating. Students were given a historical situation and problem, and were asked to come up with innovative solutions to the problem.

  1. Students were first divided into information gathering groups and were instructed to research three different strategies used at that time in history (3 days).
  2. Then, they were arranged into different, decision-making groups. These groups reviewed the research that had been gathered, and were asked to brainstorm alternative methods from those used during that time period and develop a solution to the problem (2 days).
  3. Finally, students created a presentation that detailed their solution, the potential consequences, and why it was a viable solution (Final day).

Methods of evaluation included: daily classroom observations, student and teacher interviews a week after the project, daily teacher debriefings, and analysis of student products.



Student issues:

  • Difficulty dealing with the lack of structure/ guidance
  • Difficulty dealing with an overwhelming amount of information
  • Lack of metacognitive skills – difficulty managing time efficiently, monitoring their progress, and identifying areas where they needed assistance

Teacher issues:

  • Difficulty understanding the role as facilitator – the teacher started out as more of an observer than a resource; she did not know how much guidance was necessary
  • Difficulty managing groups – the teacher had trouble establishing roles and responsibilities
  • Difficulty with student accountability and feedback – the teacher struggled with evaluating the groups and getting students to think critically and creatively when coming up with their solutions


  • If student-centered teaching is to be implemented, then teachers need supports
  • Although the solutions lacked depth, the post-project interviews show that these activities may promote a deeper engagement and enhanced understanding of content

Discussion Questions

  1. What should the goals of student-centered learning be?
  2. How can we increase the quality of student-centered assignments and projects?
  3. Are there certain courses that would or would not lend themselves well to student-centered approaches? Should there be differences in the way that things are implemented? Should there be differences in the types of projects used?

The Flipped Class: A Method to Address the Challenges of an Undergraduate Statistics Course

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Submitted by Julia Cox

Article Reference

Wilson, S. G. (2013). The flipped class: A method to address the challenges of an undergraduate statistics course. Teaching of Psychology, 40, 193-199.

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Summary of Article

In many psychology departments, introductory statistics courses present a unique challenge for students and instructors alike. Students often enter the course with a wide range of interest and experience in the topic, and instructors often struggle to make content relevant and engaging for this audience. Another challenge for today’s instructors can be generational; previous scholarship (e.g., Taylor, 2010, 2011) has identified several recommendations for teaching today’s tech savvy college students (i.e., “Generation NeXt”), including connecting course materials to students’ future goals, increasing engagement and activity in the classroom, requiring preparation for and attendance to class, and relocating content learning outside of the classroom.  Given the surfeit of readily accessible knowledge (e.g., the internet), instructors’ energies may be best used teaching students how to contextualize and apply this newly acquired information. To address these concerns, the author describes her redesigned statistics course that incorporates the “flipped” classroom model.

Wilson’s (2013) flipped classroom was a substantial departure from her previous content-heavy statistics courses, as she implemented a number of structural changes. First, students completed quizzes on required readings to ensure that content learning was done outside the classroom. Internet resources were made available to support independent learning. Students were also assigned to “learning groups” for the semester, based on their major and interests. Group homework was assigned to promote collaboration and engagement with the material. In-class activities were increasingly focused on statistic’s relevance to individuals’ goals, as the instructor attempted to forge a connection between course material and experiences with students’ future careers. Substantial credit was given to in-class activities, providing an incentive for students to attend class.

Wilson (2013) evaluated the success of her redesigned course in several ways. First, students provided evaluations of new activities. Unsurprisingly, the reading quizzes were unpopular, but many of the in-class activities, group activities, and assignments designed to highlight the relevance of certain statistical concepts were rated as somewhat or very helpful. Ratings of the overall course were also obtained, and, when compared to course ratings from past years, students’ ratings of course and instructor quality were markedly higher. Further, student performance, as measured by final grades and performance on exams, was significantly higher in the flipped course. Although many of these new strategies were successful, some students perceived their increased personal responsibility negatively. Wilson (2013) goes on to discuss how it may be difficult to apply these strategies to larger statistics courses. Ultimately, the author presents several ideas that may help increase the effectiveness and palatability of undergraduate statistics courses.

Discussion Questions

  1. Wilson describes her redesigned course in some detail and, as with all things, some new strategies were received more warmly than others. How does her method compare to your own experience in undergraduate statistics? Graduate statistics? Are there some strategies that you might be able to incorporate in to your own statistics course, should you be inclined to teach one?
  2. Wilson’s statistics sections were limited to 25 people. How might this “flipped” class design work in a larger statistics course? Does the current lecture/lab structure at VCU facilitate some of these strategies?
  3. Wilson cited the different learning needs of “Generation NeXt” as part of her reason for redesigning the course. Arguably, access to knowledge has expanded considerably (e.g., the internet), making the application of that knowledge a more salient classroom exercise. What do you make of that? What other content may benefit from this course structure?