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Andrew Gilbert, Anthropology 3PH3: Dissent, Power and History (approximately 40 students)

Andrew is not sure how his use of the ALC fits squarely into "active-learning", but he feels that he certainly took advantage of some of the features of those classrooms.  For him, the most important thing was being able to accommodate a largish number of students but keep them in groups, moving back and forth between group work and common discussion throughout each class meeting.

The organization of each class (which met in 3-hours blocks, once a week) looked as follows:

Each class meeting would begin with one or two students giving short presentations on that week's readings, which were basically responses to questions he pre-circulated.  This would act as a prelude to general class discussion of the texts according to these questions.  After about an hour or so of that, and a break, the students would pull into the groups at the tables where they were sitting to come up with a new round of questions that built upon the discussion and connected that week with other week's readings/discussion. 

Each group would then offer their question, and then the class would vote on which of the questions to discuss first, which second, and so on.  That would take up another hour or so of class.  Then the students would break back into their groups to generate a common post-discussion reflection on the class discussion, and elect one person to write it up and submit it to him via email within 24 hours.

The classroom facilitated a really easy and comfortable transition back and forth between these different tasks, and it actually makes a difference for students to sit with a group of peers that they become comfortable with.  For example, there are always a few students who almost never participate in the general class discussion but almost always DO participate in the smaller group discussions (where, he imagines, they feel more comfortable and less exposed).

Andrew also had some bit of film or other visual media to display every other class, and the proximity to multiple screens certainly eased the viewing.  He does feel, though, there could be some other devices/utilities built in the room – such as a camera through which to use Skype.  He tried to get around this by using his laptop to initiate a Skype conversation.  But getting that to work was difficult.

He will be using the same room for two other courses next year, and plans on adapting them to take better advantage of the options available.

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