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Ask an Expert

This active learning strategy can take many forms. One of the most accessible yet elegant forms is to provide a strategy for students to ask their learning assistant questions using text or the chat feature on Zoom. This can be particularly useful during a mini-lecture when students might have questions but not want to raise their hands.

Alternatively, “Ask an expert” writing activities can be implemented in the classroom. Writing activities that promote students to write to “an expert in (their) field” or “an expert in an adjacent field” can help to improve and expand students’ writing and communication skills. These writing activities also pair well with follow-up, real-time panel discussions and/or one-on-one sessions with the experts themselves (i.e., on zoom, in-person).

One notable example of this active-learning strategy is the “Skype a Scientist” program. This program connects a wide range of volunteer scientists from a diversity of backgrounds and expertise with classrooms and other public groups all across the globe! There are ~6,000 scientists accessible within the “Skype a Scientist” database and the program also hosts livestream Q&A events that are free to teachers, students, and other users.

Other strategies for integrating an "ask an expert" approach include

  • Having an expert available during a simulation. For example, as students work through the process of determining what choices to make during a disaster response simulation, you can have an expert 'on the line' who can answer specific questions.

  • Integrating an expert as a learning coach throughout the class term. This person can be listed on the syllabus and available for questions and even possibly feedback on students' proposals or public products.

  • Hosting panel discussions with multiple experts in the same field or from a variety of fields and backgrounds. This approach allows students to connect and engage with subject experts from various backgrounds via real-time opportunities for Q&A, focused dialogue, and much more. This is an excellent activity that can help students to increase their own knowledge and while gaining real career insight.

This active learning spectrum entry was written by Dr. Chelsea Duball. Chelsea is an expert in her field of soil science and she is also trained in science communication through the WySCI program and active learning through the yearlong LAMP Fellows Program.

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