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Negative Student Response to Active Learning in STEM Classrooms:

A Systematic Review of Underlying Reasons

Journal of College Science Teaching—July/August 2020 (Volume 49, Issue 6)

By Prateek Shekhar, Maura Borrego, Matt DeMonbrun, Cynthia Finelli, Caroline Crockett, and Kevin Nguyen

Recent research has supported the use of student-centered teaching practices, such as active learning, because of its effectiveness in improving student learning and retention when compared with traditional, lecture-based teaching practices. Despite evidence supporting the effectiveness of active learning in improving STEM undergraduate education, the adoption of active learning by instructors has been slow for reasons, including negative student response to active learning. In this systematic literature review, we examine students’ negative responses to active learning and reasons for the negative responses noted in 57 published STEM studies. Our findings identify three types of negative responses: affect, engagement, and evaluation. The reasons behind negative response represented six overarching categories based on student feedback: limited value, lack of time, difficulty and increased workload, lack of guidance, logistical difficulties, unfamiliarity with active learning, lack of preparation, and confidence. We leverage different theoretical perspectives to explain the reasons behind negative responses and offer insights for lowering the barrier for instructors to adopt active learning in STEM classrooms.



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