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Active Learning

Active Learning

30 June, 2016

Defining Active Learning

  • Active learning is “anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing” (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p. 2).
  • Felder & Brent (2009) define active learning as “anything course-related that all students in a class session are called upon to do other than simply watching, listening and taking notes” (p. 2).
  • Active learning approaches can be as short as a few minutes long.
  • Active learning techniques can be integrated into a lecture or any other classroom setting relatively easily. Even large classrooms can involve learning activities beyond the traditional lecture format.

Reasons for incorporating active learning techniques

Research suggests that audience attention in lectures begins to wane every 10-20 minutes. Incorporating active learning techniques once or twice during a 50-minute class (twice to or thrice for a 75-minute class) will motivate student engagement. Active learning also:

  1. Reinforces vital material, concepts, and skills.
  2. Gives more frequent and immediate feedback to students.
  3. Addresses various student learning styles.
  4. Provides students with a chance to think about, talk about, and process course material.
  5. Makes personal connections to the material for students, which increases their enthusiasm to learn.
  6. Lets students practice important skills, such as collaboration, through pair and group work.
  7. Builds self-esteem through conversations with other students.
  8. Creates a sense of community in the classroom through increased student-student and instructor-student interaction.

Covering the content when using active learning

Consider what students can do outside of class to more effectively prepare for in-class activities:

  • Integrate pre-class reading assignments.
  • Assign videos for students to watch and answer questions about.
  • Have students to finish pre-class quizzes (to make sure that students have read the material) onBlackboard.

Incorporating active learning into various classroom settings

  • Become familiar with a few active learning techniques. Some that are easier to implement are the “one minute paper,” and “think-pair-share”.
  • Select one or two methods and modify them so that they address learning goals in your class.

When implementing active learning techniques, follow these general steps:

  • Use activities to draw attention to problems and content you feel are most critical.
  • Set rules of conduct and civility to motivate appropriate participation.
  • Introduce the activity and explain the learning benefit.
  • Control the time cost by giving students a time limit to complete the task.
  • Stop the activity and debrief. Call on a few students or groups of students to share their thoughts and tie them in to the next steps of your lecture.
  • Consider usingclassroom response technologies, video clips, and even smartphones and laptops to facilitate active learning activities.

Considerations for integrating active learning techniques?

Implementing any new teaching technique can be a daunting or challenging task.

  • Start small. Choose one simple technique to try in one class.
  • Think about how you will manage the process each step of the way. How will you introduce the activity? Do you need to give visual aids with directions? How much time will you give students? How will you debrief? Smaller groups may be easier to manage than larger ones.
  • Consider the logistics of getting a large group of students back on track after an activity. Clap your hands or flash the lights to get students to stop and refocus their attention on you.
  • Some students may not accept new learning activities with complete ease. Instead of trying to involve all students, focus on engagingmore students in more meaningful
  • Again, start small. Incorporating many active learning techniques in one session may irritate students and discourage their participation.
  • Explain the advantages for using active learning techniques and connect the activity to student learning outcomes for the class.
  • Use a quick icebreaker or two early in the term to help students become comfortable with one another and to set expectations for an interactive class.