Enhancing Student Engagement and Learning By Using Experimentation in Your Course

By Dr. Tom Randolph, Belhaven-Chattanooga Adjunct Instructor

See webinar discussing this model at: http://belhaven.adobeconnect.com/p9lo05svniy/

Curiosity inspires experimentation that in turn inspires innovation. Every class should have innovation, both personal and business, as its central focus. This will better prepare students for the 21st Century of global competition and lifelong learning. There are many ways to learn but only one way to think logically. That one-way is the Scientific Method for experimentation: question, purpose, research, hypothesis, experiment, analysis, and conclusion. It is a mental framework for innovation. It tests and measures empirical evidence as a way of thinking to continually making things better in any pursuit of learning.

Like any skill, this mindset requires practice for improvement. Every class I teach requires students to directly apply textbook knowledge to one personal and one business experiment during the entire course using SMART goals. They must be simple, doable, cost no money, require no approval, and be personally meaningful. Each week students stand in front of the class to answer six questions as their sales pitch. What are their one best weekly take-away ideas from the textbook, Christian book, Bible, personal experiment, work experiment, and one feedback question to the class to help the presenter?

The content of the class discussions (best take-away ideas) is in the context of students’ personal and work experiments (applications) that seek to apply learning in practical real life ways, now, not some distant future. Teachers should not repeat in class what students can do alone at home. Reading is the students’ responsibility. Class discussion should not be textbook regurgitations. In contrast, classrooms should be vibrant innovation laboratories where students inspire and challenge each other to apply experimental action learning to change things for the better.

Albert Einstein said, “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.” Our brains were not designed to remember long-term knowledge that learners view as meaningless. The brain defines meaningless as anything that cannot be practically used to make things better. Use it or lose it! He defined intelligence as the ability to change.   A lot of know with little do is an education without innovation. Learning is meant to change people’s lives for the better, not merely memorize information to pass tests and then forget it. Tony Wagner wrote, “The world does not care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.” Students should constantly ask themselves, “How can I use this now?”

God counts everything: the head’s hairs, the sparrow’s fall, and the stars’ names. He counts them to measure them. God tests many things. This testing is experimentation for the believers’ good and growth. In Deuteronomy 8, the children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years (measurement). This time was to test them (run experiments) to see what was in their hearts, whether they would obey his commandments or not. Scripture records in Daniel 1 how he ran a two-week (measurement) food/drink experiment using the Scientific Method. Daniel and his friends ended up proving themselves healthier and better nourished.

Romans 12:1,2 says believers are to be living sacrifices transformed (continually changed) from the patterns (thinking paradigms) of the world to new and better biblical worldview patterns. How? By testing the will of God, i.e. continually running personal experiments of faith to prove for themselves that God keeps his good, acceptable, and perfect promises.

All life is experimentation because all life is choices with risk. Everyone constantly makes decisions as experimentation: directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously. Luke 10:27 teaches believers to love God with all their minds, i.e. logically, systematically, empirically.

If you would like to know more about using experiments to enhance student engagement and learning in your class, please contact Randolph at trandolph@belhaven.edu.

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