Teaching mathematics using active learning: Teachers' preparation in Chile
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© American Society for Engineering Education, 2017.The effectiveness of active learning has been demonstrated in many studies conducted across multiple disciplines, levels, countries, and backgrounds. Nevertheless, few of those published have focused on teaching mathematics with active learning methodologies. In particular, even though Latin American universities have an increased interest in student-centered methodologies, there are not enough documented experiences of Spanish-speaking universities using active learning methodologies. This work reports a unique experience with a group of instructors teaching mathematics using active learning in a private university in Chile. In that scenario, twelve instructors of the Engineering School received professional development training on both active learning and collaborative methodologies with the aim of enabling them to modify the way they prepare their classes and interact with students in the classrooms. These instructors taught basic math courses for engineering students under the supervision of two coordinators that also participated in this study. The development training started with an introductory workshop focused on raising awareness among the participants about the importance and the need for a change of paradigm in classroom practice. Then, the instructors participated on follow-up sessions, class observations and feedback sessions. They received guidance on the design of pedagogical material that could foster students' engagement in their own learning. In the first semester of implementation of this experience, over 1300 students from the first and second years of the engineering program enrolled on the selected courses. In this paper, we present a description of the instructors' training methodology, the follow-up during the semester, instructors' perspectives at the end of the semester measured by an interview, as well as students' performance in terms of passing ratio, their perception of the pedagogical approach and about their own learning. Among other results, some courses showed an improvement in the percentage of passing grades compared to a preceding year and an increased percentage of students not dropping out of the courses. However, in some other courses the results showed that more improvement is needed. Evidence was found about some factors that may affect the success of the implementation of innovation in class. Instructors' previous preparation and perception of their own teaching appears to be an important factor, as well as the way students' perceived their interaction with knowledge and their responsibility to the act of constructing that knowledge on their own. These results were encouraging to continue working with a professional development program for faculties for this Engineering School to transform their teaching practices.