Techniques for Active Learning


Listed below are techniques instructors can use to develop and facilitate an active learning environment in their classrooms:

Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT)

  • Students will complete and turn in assignments prior to class.
  • Right before class starts, the instructor will go through each submission and identify issues or problems that students might have with understanding the main concepts of the assignment.
  • The instructor will then adjust the daily course materials to tackle these problems.

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Assigning Teams in Poll Everywhere

The segmentation feature allows you to separate your participants into distinct groups and compare their responses to given questions. Segmentations is available for multiple choice or true/false type questions.

Set Up Segmentation Instructions

Interactive Lecture Demonstrations

In interactive lecture demonstrations, the instructor breaks the lecture at least once per class to have students participate in an activity that lets them work directly with the material.

  • Pre-planning allows for mapping learning outcomes to activities, devise low stake assessments for preparation and programming the activity during class time.
  • Once planned, determine types of activities that will be used and how student feedback will be collected. Examples are using polling software to capture responses, submitting short forms, or worksheets.

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Listening Teams

Create groups of four students and provide each student with a role:

  • Example Giver (facilitator/tutor)
    • Gives examples or applications of key concepts
  • Questioner (inquisitive student)
    • Asks 2 clarifying questions about material
  • Devil’s Advocate (critical thinker)
    • Identifies 2 areas of disagreement within the content and explains why
  • Team Player (positive believer)
    • Identifies 2 areas of agreement within the content and explains why

After groups have been formed,

  1. Each student will think of examples, questions, and areas of agreement/disagreement during lecture or video presentation
  2. After lecture/video, have students meet as group for 5-10 minutes and share ideas/finalize what they will say as a group during presentations
  3. Groups will present/share their examples and ask clarifying questions to the instructor and other groups to solidify understanding of concepts and materials

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Structured Sharing (best for 20-30 students)

This activity can be completed on index cards, personal whiteboards, Google Docs, and submitted as an assignment to Canvas.

  • Provide three 3″x5″ index cards for each student, including 10 for the instructor (70-100 cards).
  • Prior to class, identify a superlative to focus on. During Structured Sharing, students will respond with their ideas about the superlative. Here are some examples:
    • What are the most important points from the day’s lesson and/or readings?
    • What are the most useful ideas
    • Which are the most relevant to our times?
  • Write answers on each of the instructor’s cards (10)
  • At the beginning of class, pass out three 3″x5″ cards to each student and tell them to write down the three most ________ (based on superlative) on each card by the end of class. Collect the cards at the end of class and combine student cards with instructor cards.
  • Review students’ answer cards and assess their comprehension and understanding of concepts/materials. How closely did students’ answers match instructor’s answers? Did students answer correctly, thoroughly, accurately, etc., and did they achieve the learning outcomes that were planned? Identify places that need to be clarified or expanded.
  • At the next class period, give each student 3-4 cards, containing both the students’ and instructor’s responses, and have them select the card they most agree with or have them divide the cards into groups and select one group to share with the class. Have each group select a representative to share the responses.

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Quantitative Writing

Quantitative writing facilitates exploration of ill-structured problems, this technique teaches students strategies necessary to look at data in different ways and apply logical principles to derive the correct analysis.

See examples of quantitative writing from Carleton College.

Students as the Teachers

  • Students prepare their own lesson plans on a given topic. These can range from 10-30 minute activities presented to the whole class.
  • These are not simple presentations; these are full lesson plans that include lesson objectives, learning outcomes, discussion questions, and forms of practice and evaluation.
  • Best Practices:

    • Create a basic lesson outline for students to follow
    • Explain basic teaching skills to students
    • Define how instructor will evaluate students’ performance on this activity
    • Have clear topics for students to teach
    • Give examples of reliable resources for students to use when preparing lessons
    • Allow students to be as creative as they want to be with this activity
    • Instructors may also pair up students or form groups of students to teach the class

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Team Quizzes

  • Allows students to test each other while working together in groups to solve problems.

  • Process:

    • The class is divided into 3 teams
    • Team #1 will create a short-answer quiz, while Team #2 and #3 review their notes
    • Team #1 will quiz Team #2
    • If Team #2 misses a question, Team #3 gets a chance to answer the question
    • The next question goes first to Team #3, and if missed, will go to Team #2 and so on…

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