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Robert O’Brien, Political Science 3B03: Political Economy of Climate Change (approximately 75 students)

About 1/3rd of Dr. O’Brien’s course was devoted to active-learning.  The specific activities were two student-centred simulations focussing on the challenges brought on by climate change.  One of the simulations is preceded by two weeks of group work.  The simulation was developed at MIT, and he has modified it and experimented with its delivery.

To evaluate student participation he observes students during the simulation.  He makes notes of those not participating so that their participation grade is marked down.  Students must also hand in a copy of their group project for evaluation.  Finally each student must submit a self-evaluation of their project and the individual contributions of other students in their group.

He has found that you need to experiment with different active-learning techniques, and refine them over several courses.  Two key challenges for instructors are first, stepping back and turning control over to the students and second, delivering sufficient content in advance to make sure the active sessions are a success.

photo of Robert O'Brien

Robert O'Brien

Ph.D. Political Science, York University (Canada)1992