Active Learning

No matter how they learn, it has been found that students pay the most attention during the first 10-15 minutes of a class, and then attention declines.3  To keep your students engaged throughout an entire class and to accommodate all learning styles, break lectures into short 10-15 minute segments with active learning activities dispersed throughout.1 

 Active learning is “anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing.”1  Active learning activities take students out of the passive role of listening and taking notes.  By participating in discussion, writing, reading, or reflecting, students will be more engaged in the lesson, more reflective of what they are learning, more motivated to learn, and more likely to collaborate.  Active learning activities also provide the opportunity to informally assess student learning.1

Active Learning activities will: 

  • Keep students attentive 
  • Engage students with the material and with each other 
  • Involve students of all learning styles 
  • Help gauge student learning 

Examples of Active Learning Activities/Questioning Techniques4,5,6 

  • Pause after asking a question to give all students time to reflect. 
  • Ask students to write down answers before calling on a few students to share. 
  • Give questions at the end of a class, ask for answers/start a discussion at beginning of next class. 
  • Ask for students to summarize an idea, or another student’s answer to a question. 
  • Divide students into pairs or small groups to discuss a topic.  Have a few share their ideas for a whole class discussion.  You can try having learning teams, where students split into the same groups throughout the course for each small discussion, or you can rotate partners and groups.
  • Have students write down the “muddiest point” of a lecture or assignment—the most unclear or confusing point. 
  • Assign short, in-class writing assignments: 1-2 paragraphs, or index cards.
  • See: Example Group Assignments

Large Class Techniques5 

  • Project a multiple-choice question, then ask students to raise their hands for the right answer.
  • Whole class debates: Divide the class in half by the aisle, and have students from each side give points for/against an argument.
  • Role playing.
  • Divide into small groups for a short discussion.
  •  Have an online discussion board for students to ask questions.2

See also Discussion