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What is it?

Active learning is about “involving students in doing hings and thinking about the things they are doing”
(Bonwell & Eison, 1991)

Active learning implies that students are engaged in their own learning. Active learning strategies have students do something other than taking notes or following directions…they participate in activities…[to] construct new knowledge and build new scientific skills. ” Handelsman et al., 2007


“Active learning doesn’t just happen; it occurs in the classroom when the teacher creates a learning environment that makes it more likely to occur” (Michael, 2006)

Active Learning Strategies

Group Work

A group of learners who meet to accomplish a specific task within a specific timeframe. In group work, it is assumed that the instructor has explained the task to the learners & has provided them with the instructions required to organize their work (allocated time, restrictions, etc.) The instructor supervises the activity, going around from one group to another to deal with any issues or to provide feedback & encouragement (Chamberland 1995 pp. 103-104).


“Think-Pair-Share” is an active learning strategy that engages students with the material on an individual level, in pairs, and finally as a large group. It consists of three steps. First, the instructor poses a prepared question and asks individuals to think (or write) about it quietly. Second, students pair up with someone sitting near them and share their responses verbally. Third, the lecturer chooses a few pairs to briefly summarize their ideas for the benefit of the entire class. When used at the beginning of a lecture, a Think-Pair-Share strategy can help students organize prior knowledge and brainstorm questions. When used later in the session, the strategy can help students summarize what they’re learning, apply it to novel situations, and integrate new information with what they already know. The strategy works well with groups of various sizes and can be completed in four or five minutes, making it an ideal active learning strategy for classes in which lecture is the primary instructional method (U. of Minnesota, 2008).

One-Minute Paper

The instructor pauses and asks students to write a response to a question presented on a PowerPoint slide. The strategy can be used at any point in a lecture, but is particularly useful at the end of class to encourage students to summarize the day’s content (U of Minnesota 2008).


Students divide themselves up in sub groups. This allows them to discuss the work that needs to be done and decide upon a division of labor. Subsequently each member of a sub group rotates to another sub group, whose members have the same topic to discuss (ex.: all 1’s together, all the 2’s together, etc.). Every sub group then explores the common problem to become ‘experts’. The students then return to their initial subgroup to share their findings.


Online Resources
A compendium of resources on Active Learning and Cooperative Learning
Navigating the Bumpy Road to Student-Centered Instruction (Felder, R.M., & Brent, R., 1996).
Active Learning
Research on Interactive Learning
Steelcase Education. Steps on how to teach in an Active Learning Classroom
University of Minnesota. Inside Active Learning Classrooms
McGill University. Teaching and learning experiences in Active Learning Classrooms: Highlights

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