By Molli Carter
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Students enter college from high school classrooms where active and collaborative learning is the norm. Over the past decade in many districts in Delaware, Learning Focused Strategies© have completely transformed the role of the teacher and the experience of the student. In these classrooms, working with a partner or a group is not an isolated strategy used only at certain times, but instead a normal part of the students’ day-to-day routine. When students leave their high schools and walk into our doors, they are expecting active and collaborative classrooms. How can we, as college instructors, meet this expectation?
One way is as simple as getting students to move around. Eric Jenson (2000), author of Moving with the Brain in Mind, trains teachers extensively on how physical activity is a game-changer in terms of learning. Active and collaborative in its own way, physically moving around the classroom plays a huge role in students’ digestion of new information. According to Jenson, our brain cannot take in new information ad nauseum without time for processing. Physical movement within the learning framework gives the brain a break from an otherwise overloaded state.
One quick and easy strategy for getting students up and moving while also providing time-sensitive formative feedback for instructors is called four corners. Four corners is basically a multiple choice question in which each corner of the room represents a different answer. Students move to the corner to indicate their selected answer. Recently, I ran a workshop about using four corners, and since then, a few instructors have shared how they have implemented the activity in their classes. Here are a couple of their stories…
Calvin Iszard, adjunct faculty for the Owens Business department, wrote the following account of his first day of class, in which he implemented his own twist on four corners:
Teaching that first day of Introduction to Business 101, I said “pop quiz” and asked these new students to finish the statement: I am taking this course because…
A. I want to start my own business one day.
B. I want to work for a great company.
C. I want to earn as much money as I can.
D. I am not sure what I want at this point in my life.
Out of the 20 students, each corner was about even in numbers – with the exception of “D” = only one lonely student ! I asked each group to discuss and then share a consensus of why they chose that answer. And fairly typical comments ensued…until we got to D.
This honest and brave majority of one said “…being young with a whole life to find my way I am looking for as much information and knowledge to help me do just that…” This began a wonderful 10 minute discussion that indeed broke the ice with very personal comments from other students about their own journeys and challenges.
And most of all, it gave me a chance to make some added points about Why we study Business 101 without the preaching. This was the high point of our first class. It’s a great way to get every student (even the shy ones) to participate and think beyond the text.
Gayle Parola, instructor for SSC 100, implemented her own twist when teaching learning styles to her first year students:
One of my lessons is on learning styles. After students completed the learning style inventory, I had them move to different corners of the room based upon their learning style (i.e. visual, auditory, kinesthetic/tactile, or a tie between two). Once in the corners, students discussed what that learning style meant to them as a student and what kinds of things can they would do with that knowledge to become successful. Using this strategy built a stronger sense of community within the classroom as well!
If you are thinking about trying four corners in your class, here are a few methods that are typically employed:
- Provide scenarios that lend themselves to answers such as “Agree”, “Strongly Agree”, “Strongly Disagree” or “Disagree”. Students pick their corner and have to support their opinion.
- Label the corners of the classroom A,B,C,D from a multiple choice problem and tell students to choose the answer they feel is correct.
- Give each student an index card that has one of four questions. Then, label each corner of the room with the four answers. Students must move to the corner to find the appropriate answer for their question.
How can YOU get students up and moving to the four corners of the room to get their brains processing new material? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
Jensen, E. (2000, November). Moving with the brain in mind. Educational Leadership, 58(3) 34-37.