What is Active Learning?
The Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching provides a very good definition of active learning. They define active learning as,
“… activities that students do to construct knowledge and understanding. The activities vary but require students to do higher order thinking. Although not always explicitly noted, metacognition—students’ thinking about their own learning—is an important element, providing the link between activity and learning.”1
I appreciate this definition as it touches on three important ideas:
- Constructivism – the idea that students can/will construct their own knowledge and understanding through the learning experience
- Bloom’s Taxonomy – pushing the students toward higher order thinking
- Metacognition – providing opportunity for the students to think about what and how they are learning
These ideas work in concert.
The end-goal of any active learning strategy is three-fold:
- Increase student engagement
- Increase student motivation
- Increase knowledge retention by creating a more impactful learning experience.
There are a number of varying strategies that fall under active learning. A common characteristic of many of these strategies is that they involve students working in collaborative groups. The guide referenced earlier,1 lists a number of strategies. Some of the strategies being employed on Lawrence’s campus are the Jigsaw Method and Team Based Learning (TBL). Others are using manipulatives with collaborative learning groups, a walking meeting model, or movement based collaboration around connecting to literature.
As with any strategy there are challenges associated with active learning. A few of those include managing group dynamics, space limitations, and assessment of group work. There are countermeasures of course, but using active learning strategies must be approached with forethought.
If you are interested in utilizing active learning strategies into a course there are people and places below that will help you in your endeavor.
If you are interested in trying or adapting active learning strategies in your pedagogy, please reach out to any member of the Instructional Technology Team:
- David Berk – Dir. of Instructional Technology, x6756
- Arno Damerrow – Instructional Technologist, x6710
- Jedidiah Rex – Instructional Designer, x6729
The following spaces have been designed specifically with active learning in mind. While these spaces are specifically designed for active learning, the Instructional Technology team may be able to help you identify the best space to meet your needs.
A Guide to Teaching in the Active Learning Classroom | History, Research, and Practice – Available in the Lawrence Library
Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty 1st Edition – Available in the Lawrence Library
- Brame, C., (2016). Active learning. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved 20181220 from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/active-learning/.