2014 mpw PORTAAL

(The FASEB Journal.2014;28:531.9)

PORTAAL: a practical observation rubric to assess active learning in the college science classroom

Mary Pat Wenderoth, Sarah Eddy and Mercedes Converse
Biology University of Washington Seattle WA United States

Active learning is defined and implemented in a variety of ways. Yet how activities are implemented in the classroom may be key to whether student learn. Recognizing the cognitive science underpinning the activity is therefore an important first step to successfully implementation. Unfortunately, there are few easy to use observation tools to assess implementation of active learning. We created our tool/rubric by first reviewing the literature and identifying four key dimensions shown to increase student learning: 1) Ericsson’s “deliberate practice” (1998); 2) encouraging meaningful participation through accountability addresses the need for attention in learning (Bjork 2002) & Chi’s Active-Constructive-Interactive framework (Chi 2009); 3) logic development is an opportunity for students to generate, interpret and elaborate on their understanding (deWinstanley & Bjork 2002) and 4) reducing student apprehension which reinforces Dweck’s mindset work (1999). We deconstructed each dimension into 28 different elements observable in a classroom and used PORTAAL: a Practical Observation Rubric to Assess Active Learning to observe 27 different instructors across two years of introductory Biology. PORTAAL was able to successfully differentiate a wide range of active learning behaviors and future work will correlate student academic performance in class with PORTAAL results.

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