Best Practices for Active Learning

  • Make learning a shared responsibility; involve all participants and monitor each student’s personal level of participation (do not lead – facilitate)
  • Provide students with detailed formative and summative feedback about their progress so they can gauge their self-assessments and make adjustments in order to reach learning or mastery goals.
  • Research has shown that active learning increases student performance. If you find yourself talking for a long time, find an activity for the students to do, instead.
  • Allow time for students to reflect (self-reflection, peer/group reflection) on what they have experienced or learned during class.

Other Considerations

  • Prior to the start of the quarter, go to your classroom and familiarize yourself with the technology and layout of the room.
  • Be clear, open, and transparent with your students about why you are using active learning format. Allow them to understand and be part of the teaching and learning process with you. Be clear of the benefits and advantages of a learner-centered approach and how your curriculum aligns to the activities.

Potential Issues/Downsides

  • A single active learning activity can take as long as a week to complete, including time for preparation, in-class work and discussions, and personal and group reflections.
  • Students may be unwilling to engage in active learning activities due to the fact that much of their learning experiences in the past derive from passive learning. Also, many of these students might have never experienced an active learning environment, making them more hesitant or shy when asked to engage in active learning activities.

Example Lesson Plans

  • Narrowing a Topic
  • Controlled Vocabulary
  • Interpreting a Citation


  • Active Learning: Underlying Theory and Best Practices in Medical Education