The article A Bridge to Active Learning: A Summer Bridge Program Helps Students Maximize Their Active-Learning Experiences and the Active-Learning Experiences of Others states that Summer Bridge Programs are an effective method to improve student engagement in active learning. According to Maryellen Weimer’s classification system, this article represents research scholarship because participants were interviewed and qualitative data was collected to obtain results for an experiment.
The purpose of Summer Bridge Programs is to allow students to have a smooth transition from high school to college or university. The overall goal is to improve academic success; which will consequently result in student retention in university to complete their programs. These Summer Programs are done before the start of the first year of university entrance to help students adapt to the new academic environment. Comparable to high school, students face higher academic expectations, larger class size, less interaction with instructors, and the need to establish new social relationships in university. Summer bridge programs run for two weeks and teach introductory biology content for incoming science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors, using active learning mechanisms. Student attitudes and behaviors are also monitored during engagement.
In this study, initial interviews were conducted after half of the first semester with the Bridge Students; to get a feel as to if the Summer Bridge Program will help with them stay in university after the first year. The researcher found out that the responses from students were directly related to active learning approaches, which was used both the Bridge program and refresher introductory Biology course.
The researchers then changed the goal of the study to the benefits of active learning with a new set of interview questions. The researchers then interviewed students who participated in the Summer Bridge program and students who were eligible but did not participate (non-bridge students). These interviews took place after the completion of the first year introduction biology class in university. Interview responses were immediately transcribed, coded and analyzed. This was done to determine if new themes or active learning techniques were developed in students.
There were three main findings in this article. First, Bridge students benefited more from active learning because they understood the purpose of doing active learning. Non-Bridge felt they were getting less out of active learning because they believed the professors were not teaching enough and they were unable to get complete lectures and notes. Next, because bridge students understood the purpose of active learning, they were able to use distinct strategies in their active learning experience, compared to non-bridge students. Finally, bridge students had an equitable approach to group work, meaning they felt it was their responsibility to help other students learn and to monitor equity during group work. Non-bridge students did not share the same value for group work.
I believe the greatest strength of this study is the results. Recently, many courses have been transformed into student-centered, active-learning classrooms because several forms of literature claim active learning is a more effective way to teach and learn. I believe it is extremely important to stress that engaging in active learning is what enhances a student’s ability to learn, not just active learning strategies.
Although the researchers stumbled on an important topic about active learning approaches, I feel that this specific study is invalid. This is because the initial goal was to help students with university retention, but during the study the goal was change to active learning. Hence, the study became bias with the interview questions and the results skewed. Moreover, I feel that the researchers did not conduct the split of interviews fairly which I felt skewed the results in their favor. Of the 107 students eligible for the Bridge program, 26 of the 28 Bridge Students, which accounts for 93%, were interviewed. Compared to 8 out of 79 non-Bridge students, which accounts for 10 were interviewed.
By the time they had conducted the second interview with the non-Bridge students, they felt that there would be no more new themes or active learning strategy. They were confident that data saturation was reached when 8 interviews were completed. In addition the process to analyze the interview responses to arrive at the final results were different. For the Bridge Students, a constant comparative method was used to analyze the results where new themes and active learning strategies were identified. The results were simultaneously coded and analyzed the data from Bridge students’ interview. The researchers looked for reliability of the Bridge Students, by using a coding rubric and two independent raters to score a subset of students’ response, while the remaining Bridge interviews were continued to be coded. For the non-Bridge students, upon completion of the interview the responses were immediately transcribed, coded and analyzed. After the non-Bridge students interview, all of the Bridge students interviewed were re-coded for new themes that resulted from the non-Bridge students’ interview. This practice skewed the bias results that the researchers were looking for.
My biggest critique after reading this article is that I find myself wondering what comes next. The article states that student engagement is what makes active learning the most effective. The article also says that summer bridge programs are a great way to enhance student engagement. However, it is simply not realistic to enroll every single incoming first year student into a summer bridge program. Summer Bridge Programs target students at risk of dropping out of university such as racial minorities, first generation, and low-income students.
As a senior science student, this paper really opened my eyes and forced me to reflect on my own learning habits. It is well known that active learning is an extremely effective way to teach and learn. I purposely enrolled in classes that use active learning because I wanted to improve my learning ability. However, I find it difficult to engage to my full potential and therefore, I am not maximizing my own learning experience. I am the reason that active learning is not benefiting me. Therefore, I need to develop ways to extend the active learning opportunities I am provided with and develop the ability to initiate a deeper level of engagement on my own.