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Minnesota scholar visits campus to discuss active learning classrooms

Feb 19, 2013

Dr. Robin Wright, an associate dean in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota, presents active learning classroom information on Feb. 15. / Photos by Megan Westervelt

Minnesota scholar visits campus to discuss active learning classrooms


By Kerry Tuttle

ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 19, 2013)—Dr. Robin Wright, an associate dean in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota, visited Ohio University on Feb. 15 to discuss the concept of active learning classrooms with Scripps College students, staff and faculty. Plans for the new Schoonover Center for Communication, scheduled to be completed in fall 2014, include a 130-seat active learning classroom. OHIO administrators are also considering the model for several other Schoonover Center spaces and classrooms across the university.

These classrooms include round tables designed for group work and interactive screens that can be controlled by each group. Students are also responsible for purchasing the textbook and reading it before each class, prepared to engage in group discussion rather than listening to lecture.

“The important thing is that we offload the textbook onto their shoulders so that class time is used to analyze data, create solutions, work with one another and critique one another,” Wright said.

Wright has been the principle leader in the creation of several active learning classrooms at the University of Minnesota. These involve using problem-based learning and “flipped classroom” principles for larger enrollment STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) classes. Despite her accolades in research and academia involving microbiology and geology, Wright was brought to campus as a guest of the Scripps College of Communication.

While here, she led open discussions about how the active learning classrooms were created, pedagogy behind using the rooms and stakeholders’ reactions to the rooms. Scripps faculty also participated in workshops led by Wright in which they used “backward design,” a method of designing educational curriculum by setting goals before choosing instructional methods, to better connect with students.

Wright encouraged the faculty members in attendance to set their students up for success by saying, “Put them in a place to exceed your expectations, and they will exceed them.”