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Wed, 11/13/2019 - 11:52

SPEAKER 1: What is it we're actually trying to do with a student here at Cornell? Is it just tell them information? I mean, they could read Wikipedia for that.

You want to reach more of the students. And you want to give more of them a voice. So giving people a voice is probably the best way for active learning.

VEER VEKARIA: When I felt like I was a number, I felt like I was not getting the most out of my education. And I'd just lost the sense of direction and passion in what I was learning. I was not engaged. I felt like there was a big distance between me and the professor.

NATASHA HOLMES: A traditional lecture really was a transmission of knowledge, where the role of the instructor before the printing press, it was to transfer that knowledge from the instructor to the students so that they could literally, like, copy it down. But information is readily available everywhere. And so that sort of model is insufficient. So what is the role of the instructor in a classroom if it's not just to transmit knowledge?

SPEAKER 2: Right now, what we want you to do is practice drawing [INAUDIBLE].

VEER VEKARIA: But when I came to this active learning classes, I found what kept me in passion. Suddenly, that gap was shrunk. You don't feel like a number among students. You know people's names around the classroom because everyone is contributing. I genuinely felt galvanized to fix the system that I want to work in.

MICHAEL FONTAINE: So, ideally, we're trying to awaken all kinds of ideas that the student has never had, channel the enthusiasms and the passions, once we find them, into the proper courses so that a student can realize or self-actualize their identity before going on and starting a career.

SPEAKER 3: Oh, now I see.

JULIA THOM-LEVY: Breaking down the barriers between faculty and students is so important for excellence in teaching. We've established the Center for Teaching Innovation. Technology and pedagogy experts all come together to support our faculty and give them what they need in the areas of assessment, pedagogy, educational technology, and other areas.

So our goal is to engage all students, and I mean all students. In a class of 400, that is quite difficult. It's beyond just asking a question and having one or two students answer. We want to hear from all of them. And we want all of them to engage with the material and get rapid feedback from the instructor.

VEER VEKARIA: You're suddenly in this global microcosm. And you have people coming from all over the world. You have people studying so many different fields. Once you get in the classroom and you realize the breadth of opportunities that are at Cornell, you sort of find yourself looking into other fields.

NATASHA HOLMES: The active learning piece is really about the instructor sort of becomes coach. And the instructor is working with the students to guide their thinking, and support their thinking, the same way any, like, athletics coach would do. The classroom ends up being this time where we got to really think critically about the content, and the material, and the subject matter, whatever it might be.

MICHELLE SMITH: My classroom does not look like a classroom, where students are coming in and quietly taking notes on what I'm saying. Instead of me imparting knowledge out to them, what I want is an opportunity for them to create the knowledge and talk about it with each other. So at times, it's loud. At times, it's almost like a party-like atmosphere, where students are discussing and debating different answer choices.

VEER VEKARIA: Suddenly, I was not being talked to by a lecturer or just reading off PowerPoints and regurgitating that information. I was learning techniques in public speaking, debating. I would be learning about a topic in the classroom, and then at dinner time with a friend, we'd be talking about that subject.

I had a solid grasp of how to kind of argue one side, but also see what the other side of the argument was. I felt more engaged with the topic. And I felt that I was closer to the professor and the TAs in that classroom.

NATASHA HOLMES: Yeah, I think university faculty can be intimidating. We don't mean to be. But I think just the idea that we're professors can be intimidating. The

Students really get to talk to each other. And they get to talk to the instructor. And I think that really does help sort of lower those barriers, which is what we want, right?

We want to be a resource. We want to be a coach. We want to be a teacher and mentor to the students. And I think that's one of the big barriers that sort of gets taken down.

MICHELLE SMITH: The skills in these active learning classes are really extending beyond the particular subject. They are lifelong skills that can help these students, no matter what careers they choose.

VEER VEKARIA: The beautiful thing about active learning was that it's preparing students for the real world, and to meet the challenges not only for just working in multiple different jobs, it's really cool because I'm able to take what I learned in the classroom and immediately apply it to stuff that I'm really passionate about. But I also have my long-term goal of being a physician. I feel like so much more passionate now about medicine and the impact that I'll make on society.