09 Oct 2019


Active learning means students interact with the content, participate in the curriculum, and communicate with each other. Do not expect the students to merely listen and memorize; rather, help them explain a process, evaluate an argument, and apply a theory to a real-world situation. One of the primary objectives for the class should be to constantly involve students with the material. Students learn more when engaging in the learning process, whether through conversation, training, analysis, or request. This contrasts sharply with traditional teaching styles, where students are expected to sit for hours, listen and, ideally, absorb the instructor’s knowledge. Incorporate active learning techniques into all the course design elements. For example, promoting brief partner conversations during lectures (i.e., think-pair-sharing), introducing problem-or case-based research projects to the curriculum, and integrating space of critical analysis activities by small groups during seminars are all good ways to engage students involved in learning. Since designing active learning activities can take time and imagination, we provide many examples on the website of Teaching Commons, particularly in teaching strategies. To help get you started, keep reading for some sample strategies.

Facilitating autonomous, analytical, and creative thinking

Ask students to evaluate, synthesize, and apply content in both lectures and assignments. Some examples include:

• Case-based experiments for problem-solving–these kinds of exercises help students improve analytical skills and learn how to apply theoretical concepts to real-world issues. Using case studies in a lecture and get students to work out their ideas independently or in small groups, or use case studies as the basis for large projects or exams.

• Debate–another active learning method that leads to the growth of critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. In a brief (five-minute) written exercise or classroom discussion, present opposing perspectives in lectures and appoint students to defend one or both of the viewpoints.

Encouraging successful teamwork

Operating in a cooperative community can be a very useful addition to a large class. Some examples include:

• Small-group discussions–there are many advantages during a lecture to take short think-pair-share breaks. Such small-group discussions allow students to understand and maintain content while also serving the wider objectives of improving their communication skills and growing their knowledge as learning resources for their classmates.

• Peer-to-peer activities–one-minute paper reflection or pace problem-solving problems, combined with the peer-to-peer conversation, can be a very effective teaching technique. Take the answers when finishing the problem and at least one repeat. Explain the correct answer once the results are in and explain why the other choices are misleading.

Cognitive psychology research has shown that teaching material to a peer is one of the best ways to improve comprehension. Build this exercise through presentations, study groups, and fast, breakout “teaching” sessions like the one mentioned above into your classes.

Increase engagement, encouragement, and success of students

If you encourage students to participate actively in the learning environment, they accept greater responsibility for their performance in the course. Likewise, students see a course as more important and more directly related to their interests when they have an opportunity to make choices about what they learn and how they use that experience. For example:

• Brainstorm learning goals–when you include students in the creation of classroom events, for example, encourage them to choose the subject of a short discussion or generate ideas on how to apply a theory to a problem that concerns them, it automatically increases levels of involvement. The participation of students in classroom activities often allows them to evaluate their comprehension and capacity, and instead of allowing them to rest comfortably with surface information, it encourages them to develop a deeper understanding of the subject.

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