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Wednesday, June 18 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
POSTER.05 – Examining the Effects of Group Discussions on Actively Open-Minded Thinking in Active Learning Classroom

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The active learning literature has long established that active learning practices are better than the passive learning practices done in traditional lecture formats (Dochy, Segers, Van den Bossche, & Gijbels, D., 2003; Springer, Stanne, & Donovan, S., 1999), and as a result, active learning classrooms have become the latest solution in assisting the transition from traditional teaching styles towards active learning techniques in university classrooms (University of Minnesota ALC Pilot Evaluation Team, 2008; University of Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center, 2012). Although on a group level, students perform better in active learning classrooms compared to students in traditional classrooms, the individual cognitive processes that occur in these classrooms have yet to be the focus in this line of research. Are all students improving? Or are students with certain cognitive tendencies benefiting more than others? Similarly, studies on individual cognitive disposition (e.g. actively open-minded thinking, Stanovich & West, 2007) have yet to explore the implications of their research in the classrooms. Typically these studies provide students with scripted arguments and perspectives on a topic rather than an actual interaction among students in the classroom (e.g., Toplak, West, & Stanovich, 2013).

The aim of the current study is to investigate whether the active learning activity of group discussions affects individual cognitive dispositions (e.g. actively open-minded thinking) and whether changes in cognitive dispositions occur after several classroom discussions during the course. Sixty students in a 3rd year psychology class will take part in this study. Students will be given the Actively Open-minded Thinking (AOT) scale (Stanovich and West, 1997) which measures the disposition of actively open-mindedness at the start and end of the course. The questionnaire contains 41 items where students rate on a scale of 1- disagree strongly to 5- agree strongly. The activity of group discussion takes place 5 times throughout the course. It requires students to research on a given controversial topic in modern psychology to form a position, and come to the discussion with convincing arguments to support their position. Discussions take place in groups of six for 30-40 minutes during class. Following the discussion, students write a 3-4 page critical response about the topic, their discussion, and whether they changed their position following the discussion.

It is expected that students scoring high on AOT will be more willing to accept other positions during the discussion than students who score low on AOT, and possibly change their mind following the discussion. This will lead to higher quality critical responses as students would be predicted to consider both sides of the argument. However, students who scored low on AOT are expected to move towards high AOT by the end of the course as a result of the discussion activities. The results from this study will provide further understanding of the positive effects active learning classrooms and practices have on students.


Wednesday June 18, 2014 4:00pm - 5:30pm
McArthur Hall

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