Skip to main content
Skip to McMaster Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to main content
McMaster logo
COVID-19 information and updates

Find the most recent updates here, as well as FAQs and information for students, faculty and staff.

Dr. Gary C. Dumbrill, Social Work 2BB3 Anti-Oppression (approximately 76 students); 4W03 Child Welfare (approximately 40 students), Social Work 4SA3 Critical Child Welfare: From Theory to Practice (10 students plus community collaborators).

The active learning classrooms in Wilson Hall are revolutionizing the way I teach. The round tables in the classrooms allow groups of students to work independently and the room acoustics keep background noise manageable so that each group can focus on the task at hand. As well, each group table having their own wired active learning HDTV and whiteboard enhances their collaboration and also enables them to share with the entire class. In regular classrooms or lecture theatres this level of group interaction and student engagement is simply not possible.

I find that in the active learning environment I have students working in groups between 25-40% of the time. These group activities can last between 5-30 minutes. Most of the time I set groups to work on intellectual and practice puzzles related to the course topic.

Some of my classes are what I call community engaged, in which I have social work practitioners, managers, lawyers, and social work service users, come into the classroom to engage with students around class topics. The active learning classrooms are ideal for this work as the infrastructure means these guests can work with the student on content rather than present it to them in lecture form.

The community engaged teaching has been particularly effective in one of the smaller classes I teach—an advanced child welfare class that has been funded by child welfare agencies to better prepare students for the field. With space to spread out, students engage in problem solving and simulated interviews with the assistance of practitioners and social work service users. In these advanced sessions the classroom has an almost “open door” policy with students being there every week, but with specialists from the field attending and engaging with small groups on differing topics as the class progresses. As well, students present project work in these classes, and community members with expertise in these subject help assess student progress.

In 2019 I will be expanding my use of the active learning infrastructure in my SW 2BB3 course (approx. 76 students). My plan is, with the help of TAs, to support the group work at the active learning tables with TAs so that the class process involves having mini-tutorial sessions right in the active classroom. The ability to do this all in one room, and to switch in and out of tutorials as needed during a class, opens up all types of pedagogical possibilities that I am excited to work with.