Learning & Teaching Topics
Active Learning Strategies
Active learning can be defined as learning environments and strategies that allow “students to talk and listen, read, write, and reflect as they approach course content through problem-solving exercises, informal small groups, simulations, case studies, role playing, and other activities — all of which require students to apply what they are learning” (Meyers and Jones, 1993, p. xi).
Why Does this Pedagogical Strategy Help Students Learn?
- Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives.
- Students must make what they learn part of themselves and active learning allows them to do so (Chickering and Gamson, 1987).
- When instructors add visuals and activities in which students must speak, average improvements in retention and comprehension are between 69% and 90%.
How to Utilize Active Learning Strategies:
- Announce at the beginning of your course that you will be engaging students in active learning strategies and tell them why.
- Give clear instructions and provide a visual with every active learning strategy.
- Always explain the format before the specific task.
- Give students the why, how, and how long for all active learning strategies.
- Plan for an extension activity. “If time…”
- Give students the opportunity to report, react, and/or reflect. May try cold-calling here.
- Go for variety. Vary the method, the format, the activity duration, and the interval between activities.
Paulson, D.R. & Faust, J.L. (n.d.) Active Learning for the College Classroom. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from Cal State L.A. Web site: http://www.calstatela.edu/dept/chem/chem2/Active/
University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning. (2009). Scenes from a Classroom: Making Active Learning Work. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching Web site: http://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=329407
Minnesota State Colleges & Universities. (n.d.) Active Learning in Diverse Classrooms. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from Minnesota State Colleges & Universities Web site: http://ctlactivediverse.project.mnscu.edu/
ELIXR. (n.d.) Active Learning Groups in Organic Chemistry. ELIXR Case Story. Retrieved April 14, 2009, from MERLOT Web site: http://pachyderm.cdl.edu/elixr-stories/active-learning-chemistry/