While faculty members have been encouraged to use all types of active learning strategies in their courses, the Office of Academic Affairs has focused on helping faculty members integrate complex active learning strategies to promote higher-order, critical thinking skills. During the summer of 2015, two UT faculty and staff committees in collaboration with CTL developed a model as a tool to help faculty integrate higher-order active learning strategies in their courses.
The primary purpose of this model, titled the Personalized Active Learning Model (PALM), is to promote a more learner-centered, active learning approach to teaching and learning on the UT campus, i.e., to help faculty members develop and deliver instruction to ensure learners are actively and effectively engaged in the learning process.
In a nutshell, PALM is a suggested sequence of instructional and learning events at the unit or lesson level for teaching course topics and achieving learning outcomes using an active, engaged learning approach. The model involves the teacher (and in some learning situations the teacher in collaboration with the learners) selecting a real-world task or problem to solve or complete during the course and at the unit or lesson level. The teacher and the learners follow a simple four-step process in completing the real-world task or solving the problem: a) acquire, b) expand, c) apply, and d) evaluate. This four-step process can be used during a class period or for a unit or module that may last several weeks and is an example of the construct of “Flipping the Classroom.” While completing the four-step process, the teacher and learners are involved in several ongoing principles, activities, and approaches: a) reflecting and making revisions, b) being innovative by trying new ideas or approaches, c) using new learning technologies, and d) being person-centered by making a personal connection between the teacher and learners. Figure 2 provides a graphic and explanation of the teacher processes and student processes involved in the PALM model.
The center of the PALM teaching/learning model (see the graphic in Figure 2) is focused on learners solving a real-world task and/or problem. When learners know that they are solving real-world tasks/problems it increases their motivation to learn. They can see the value in learning the content of the course in order to solve real-world tasks/problems that they will be solving in their future careers and/or life experiences.
Circling the core center (task/problem-centered learning outcomes) of the model is a four-step instructional/learning process that teachers/learners complete: acquire, expand, apply, and evaluate. For each step in the learning process, specific teacher processes and learner processes are described in Figure 2 to explain some of the things that teachers and learners do in this model.
In the acquire step, learners complete course learning activities (readings, self-instructional lessons, lecture captures, etc.) before class to capture (learn) the new knowledge/skills presented in the learning activities. It is critical for the teacher to do several tasks during this phase before the class meets, e.g., to prepare the learning activities; pre-assess learners’ prior knowledge, needs, attitudes; activate prior knowledge; stimulate motivation, etc.
During the expand step, the learners make their new knowledge/skills grow. They ask questions related to things they have learned and conduct further research to answer their questions. The teacher provides opportunities for the learners to elaborate on what they learned in the acquire phase and organizes group discussions for learners to discuss issues and grow their new knowledge.
In the apply step, learners apply the new knowledge/skills they have learned to solving the real-world tasks/problems identified in the core center of the learning model. The teacher uses class time to demonstrate and apply how to use the new knowledge/skills that learners have acquired to solve real-world tasks/problems. The teacher provides opportunities for practice with feedback that may involve experiential and/or service learning opportunities.
In the last step, learners self-evaluate and reflect to determine the degree they achieved the learning objectives and incidental learning outcomes they achieved. The teacher conducts assessments to determine the degree the learners achieved the learning objectives and encourages the learners to integrate their new knowledge/skills into their personal lives and transfer what they have learned to new situations/contexts.