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Wednesday, June 18 • 2:30pm - 3:20pm
CON2.12 – Small-Group, Online, Peer-Driven Learning: The “Pod” Phenomenon (Room A343)

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Decades of educational research and practice have shown that students learn best when they are actively engaged with the course material and with one another in collaborative, enquiry-based learning (EBL) activities. However, increasing class sizes resulting from economic classroom re-scaling have become a major obstacle to implementing instructional methods that support these student needs, as most learner-centred techniques require regular, time-intensive student-to-student interaction. Capitalizing on current advancements in online learning technologies, Professor Sarah Keefer (National 3M Teaching Fellow, 2009 cohort) has adapted the traditional small-group EBL model to a large-class format, by allowing students to collaborate both face-to-face and within virtual Pods (discrete online units of 3-4 peers).

In this blended EBL model, several times during the term students first read and analyse a posted exercise in class (individually and in small groups), then post their inquiry notes within their online Pod, and finally peer-review and grade their podmates’ submissions, providing commentary and rationale for each assessment. The course instructor monitors student input and, where needed, comments privately on individual posts, but interferes as little as possible; thus, this learning strategy belongs entirely to the students who are responsible for all aspects of it. The exercise materials are designed to facilitate critical thinking and application of course concepts, and the iterative process provides students with an opportunity to self-reflect and internalize the learning. Most importantly, by shifting some of the collaborative activities online, the “Pod” model circumvents the limitations of large course enrolments, delivering the learning benefits of a traditional small-group EBL design.

In this discussion panel, Professor Sarah Keefer will provide an overview of her “Pod” model and describe how it has been applied for skill-work practice in her third-year History of the English Language course, as well as for specific literary studies in second- and third-year English Literature courses. Dr. Kateryna Keefer will illustrate her application of the “Pod” model to a second-year Psychology course, demonstrating the cross-disciplinary versatility of this transformative approach. The audience will have the opportunity to learn about the logistics of setting up and managing the Pods, reflect on the practical benefits and challenges of the model, ask the panelists questions, and provide suggestions for further adaptation.

Wednesday June 18, 2014 2:30pm - 3:20pm EDT
A343 McArthur Hall

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