There is much evidence in the literature to suggest that active learning classrooms help keep students engaged and result in improved learning outcomes. This has led several Vanier Biology teachers to ‘flip’ their classrooms, asking students to watch videos and/or read text on course content before coming to class, and then work together to complete activities during class time. One pitfall associated with this approach, however, is that the teacher often doesn’t have enough time to engage with and assist all of the groups in the class when running an activity.
To overcome this problem, Karl Laroche has developed and is implementing a new assignment, whereby he is asking students from his class to act as teaching assistants. The job description is simple: students engage with the content and complete the activity before class, then meet with Karl to review this. Once they feel confident in their ability to complete the activity, they help out their peers in the class, answering questions and addressing misconceptions that Karl wouldn’t have time for.
Karl has collected data from his class to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach, and presented these data at the annual Association Québecoise de Pédagogie Collégiale (AQPC) conference. In short, the approach resulted both in direct learning gains for students, and also resulted in improved student attitudes towards and perception of the class. Most importantly, after meeting with each student individually, both Karl and the students felt they had a better rapport. Yet another novel approach to improve student learning from Vanier Biology teachers.