Freeman et al. (2014) define active learning as instructional activities that engage “students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert. It emphasizes higher-order thinking and often involves group work” (p. 31). Active learning strategies encompass a variety of activities including integrating Poll Everywhere questions into a lecture, using Think-Pair-Shares for discussion, asking students about the most confusing part of concept, implementing Jigsaw groups, etc.
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Research shows that students who participate in active learning strategies increase exam scores, while students who participate in traditional lectures are “1.5 times more likely to fail” (Freeman et al., 2014).
When deciding to integrate active learning strategies into your course/classroom, start small. Choose one strategy to try out in one class and see how it goes. Do not get discouraged if it does not work the first time.
When giving lectures, chunk the content into 15-minute segments and insert a short active learning strategy in between each segment. You could insert a poll everywhere question, ask students to identify the muddiest point, ask students a question such as how is this relevant or does this make sense and give them a minute to think and jot down an answer (1-minute write), or ask the students to reflect on the concept presented.
When using active learning strategies, consider the logistics of implementing the activity, e.g., time needed for instructions, for students to complete, and setting up groups.