Active Learning Ideas

Whether you’re planning your course for next semester or seeking a new approach to this Wednesday’s class, you’ll find abundant ideas here to help your students learn.

At its core, “active learning” engages students with content in ways that develop competencies and build skills rather than simply transfer knowledge. Classes that actively engage students can be identified by at least some of these characteristics:

  • Students are involved in more than just listening and taking notes.
  • Students are engaged in a variety of class activities, often with one another (discussing, reading, presenting, sharing their writing, etc.).
  • Students are involved in higher-order thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, evaluation).
  • Students reflect on their learning and their learning processes.
  • Students explore their own attitudes and values.
  • Less emphasis is placed on transmitting information and more on developing students’ skills.

Research has shown that active learning methodologies actually help students retain more knowledge than traditional methods that focus solely on the acquisition of facts. Students are more likely to internalize, understand, and remember material learned through active engagement in the learning process. Thus the evidence clearly suggests changing (or at least enhancing) the models that are so common in college classrooms—primarily “teacher talk.”

According to senior editor and professor of education Mary Ellen Weimer, “In many cases, active learning can be employed without any increased costs and with only a modest change in current teaching practices. It is low risk with high return.” (Adapted/excerpted from Focus on Faculty, Volume 8, No. 3, Fall 2000.)

Here are some active learning ideas that can be put to use immediately, followed by general information on three active learning strategies:

For more information please contact Susan C. Eliason, Teaching and Learning Consultant