Assistant Professor, General Education
Active learning asks students to take part in class, instead of sitting and simply listening quietly. Active learning techniques include, but are not limited to, question-and-answer sessions, discussion integrated into the lecture, short writing assignments, hands-on activities, and experiential learning events.
We believe that incorporating active learning strategies into courses not only engages and benefits learners, these techniques increase student comprehension and learning retention rates while providing instructors with valuable feedback of student learning.
Value to Learners
Active learning engages students, therefore, and promotes more genuine learning. Active learning increase critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, and activities that require collaboration make use of students’ communication and interpersonal skills. Finally, active learning tends to result in more student motivation and engaged learners. In addition, active learning strategies can be integrated into a lecture and only take a few minutes.
Value to Instructors
Active learning also provides Instructors with opportunities for assessment and a chance to guide drifting students back on track. The techniques allow for higher order thinking, are problem-centered and student-driven, and allow for a collegial, supportive environment. Because students are creators of their knowledge, they tend to be more engaged.
Challenges for Incorporating Active Learning
- May reduce the amount of time for lecture (although we generally see that as a good thing for Kendall students)
- More preparation time is needed to implement active learning strategies
- Large class size may restrict use of some techniques
- Students may resist non-lecturing techniques out of unfamiliarity, but clear instructions in how to participate in less-traditional modes can remedy that.
Active Learning Techniques
- One-Minute Paper – This technique provides quick feedback on student comprehension. Instructors ask students to take out a blank sheet of paper, ask an open-ended question related to course material and give them one minute (or two, maximum) to respond. Another variation on this is the end-of-class-Minute-Paper to gauge their understanding. Asking students to jot down what they think the most important point was in the class helps instructors assess student learning.
- Muddiest (or Clearest) Point – Like the Minute Paper, this asks students to write down what was the most (or least) clear point of the lesson so instructors can get a glimpse at student understanding.
- In-class Journaling – Allow students to write in response to a question or lesson for 10 – 15 minutes gives them time to process information and can focus class discussions.
- Think-Pair-Share – Students reflect on a question or an issue for one or two minutes, noting ideas, factors, etc. that pertain to the topic. At the end of the designated time, students turn to a peer and work together to formulate a response. Pairs then share their answer with a larger group or the entire class.
- Fishbowls – A small number of students respond to questions distributed in a previous class session. These students become “experts” in a given topic and supplement the teacher as a source of information.
- Case Study/Discussion Method – An open-ended story or case study provides a vehicle for analysis, criticism and reaching conclusions.
- Peer Questioning – Students create and prepare questions on a lecture, reading, etc. that they share with a group and discuss.
- Conference Style Learning – Students read materials that build on previous class activities and prepare ideas or questions for debate. The instructor acts as facilitator, time keeper, and discussion guide.
- Ambiguity – Provide students with conflicting information that they must think their way through in order to create a response that can be justified.