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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Reconceptualizing Active Learning in the Higher Educational Classroom

Candis L. K. Lee.

A number of research studies (e.g., Fassinger, 1995, Nunn, 1996, Reynolds and Nunn, 1997) have explored the variables that increase participation as it contributes to higher order thinking skills and heightened intellectual development (McKeachie, 1990; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991). Some research has also talked about how discussion and participation promote active learning in the classroom, so professors in higher education need to modify their traditional lecture formats to avoid passive or uninvolved learning (Bonwell and Eison, 1991; Gimenez, 1989). However, some students, silent or quiet, show outstanding academic performance, in particular, women (Fassinger, 1995; Karp and Yoels, 1975; Reynolds and Nunn, 1997), and Asians (Flowerdew and Miller, 1992; Ishii and Klopf, 1980, Lai, 1994; Liu and Littlewood, 1997). Their high performance suggests that silence may be a neglected component when defining active learning. The premise of this research challenges this narrow conceptualization and contends that some students, albeit silent or quiet in the classroom, are engaged in active learning. Therefore, using group and individual interviews of high-performing female and Asian students, and classroom observations of introductory freshmen communication courses, this presentation will answer What constitutes the silent episodes of these students, and When and How silence should interface with participation to bring about more effective classroom pedagogy. Ultimately, these answers can reconfigure how silence can be juxtaposed pedagogically, intellectually, and psychologically next to participation. Finally, this presentation also hopes to dispel any misperceptions about the silent or quiet student and reconstruct psychological and intellectual comfort zones for all students, whether they be participatory or silent.


Candis L. K. Lee  (United States)
Assistant Professor-English (ESL)
Center for English Language Programs
Hawai'i Pacific University

Dr. Candis Lee received her undergraduate degree in education and a Master's degree in English-as-a-Second-Language, and finally, her doctorate in higher education leadership. She has presented at the local conference level as well as at several international conferences in Canada, the U.S., and Hong Kong. Moreover, she has published several articles related to ESL pedagogy and teacher education, and she wrote and published in two editions, an ESL writing textbook entitled Perpsectives. Her present research interests include classroom interaction in higher education.

  • Active learning
  • Silence
  • Participation
  • Higher Education
  • Classroom Interaction

(30 min Conference Paper, English)