Deeper Learning by Putting Students in Charge of the Problem Lifecycle

Presented by: Michael Bieber

Participatory Learning (PL) creates learning opportunities, increases student motivation for learning, and deepens learning through active participation in the entire Problem Lifecycle for assignments, quizzes and other kinds of activities.  Traditionally, students only solve problems assigned by the instructor.  However, by actively engaging students in every Lifecycle stage (including crafting problems for peers, providing solutions, peer grading, and disputes involving self-assessment), students are motivated to achieve higher learning outcomes. Experimental results will be presented along with really interesting issues arising from usability and pilot experiments, such as motivating students, assessing actual learning, learning to design and use rubrics, anonymity within online systems, trusting peers, contingency planning when students don’t participate, and what it takes for instructors to embrace the approach.

This research is transformative.  It combines various successful teaching approaches into a single framework and process.  It brings a new approach to engaging and motivating students, and deepen their learning across course modes.  We believe it will work in most types of courses including across the STEM fields; and possibly from junior high school through graduate education.   It may solve some issues of engaging students within MOOCs (massive open online courses).  The assessment and team work inherent within PL’s framework could enhance student’s interpersonal (soft) skills, better preparing them for the workplace.  The deeper learning and motivation PL brings, even to topics that students previously have chosen to disengage with, may increase retention and articulation rates.

Participatory Learning is supported by an on-line prototype infrastructure that facilitates the problem lifecycle tasks, underlying processes or “workflow” management, instructor activities and oversight, and ensuring anonymity throughout student interaction.   Future extensions include group support, commenting and flagging, rating, and teaching students how to do their tasks (calibration).  Further information may be found at

Keywords: assessment, evidence of impact, learner-centered


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