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This article is about an educational technique.

Active Learning is an umbrella term that

refers to several models of instruction that focus the responsibility of learning, on
learners. Bonwell and Eison (1991) popularized this approach to instruction (Bonwell &
Eison 1991). This "buzz word" of the 1980s became their 1990s report to the Association
for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). In this report, they discuss a variety of
methodologies for promoting "active learning." However according to Mayer (2004)
strategies like "active learning" developed out of the work of an earlier group of theorists
those promoting discovery learning.
While there is no question that learners should be engaged during learning and
cognitively active, several researchers have noted that being behaviorally active during
initial learning can be detrimental to schema acquisition (Mayer 2004) (Kirschner,
Sweller & Clark 2006) (Sweller & Cooper, 1985; Cooper & Sweller, 1987).
It has been suggested that students who actively engage with the material are more likely
to recall information (Bruner 1961), but several well-known authors have argued this
claim is not well supported by the literature (Anderson, Reder & Simon 1998) (Gagn
1966) (Mayer 2004) (Kirschner, Sweller & Clark 2006). Rather than being behaviorally
active during learning, Mayer (2004) suggests learners should be cognitively active.

Active learning exercises

Bonwell and Eison (1991) suggested learners work in pairs, discuss materials while roleplaying, debate, engage in case study, take part in cooperative learning, or produce short
written exercises, etc. The argument is when should active learning exercises be used
during instruction. While it makes some sense to use these techniques as a "follow up"
exercise or as application of known principles, it may not make sense to use them to
introduce material. Proponents argue that these exercises may be used to create a context
of material, but this context may be confusing to those with no prior knowledge. The
degree of instructor guidance students need while being "active" may vary according to
the task and its place in a teaching unit.
Examples of "active learning" activities include:

A class discussion may be held in person or in an online environment.

Discussions can be conducted with any class size, although it is typically more
effective in smaller group settings. This environment allows for instructor
guidance of the learning experience. Discussion requires the learners to think
critically on the subject matter and use logic to evaluate their and others'
positions. As learners are expected to discuss material constructively and
intelligently, a discussion is a good follow-up activity given the unit has been
sufficiently covered already [1].

A think-pair-share activity is when learners take a minute to ponder the previous

lesson, later to discuss it with one or more of their peers, finally to share it with
the class as part of a formal discussion. It is during this formal discussion that the
instructor should clarify misconceptions. However students need a background in

the subject matter to converse in a meaningful way. Therefore a "think-pair-share"

exercise is useful in situations where learners can identify and relate what they
already know to others. So preparation is the key. Prepare learners with sound
instruction before expecting them to discuss it on their own.

A learning cell is an effective way for a pair of students to study and learn
together. The learning cell was developed by Marcel Goldschmid of the Swiss
Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (Goldschmid, 1971). A learning cell
is a process of learning where two students alternate asking and answering
questions on commonly read materials. To prepare for the assignment, the
students will read the assignment and write down questions that they have about
the reading. At the next class meeting, the teacher will randomly put the students
in pairs. The process begins by designating one student from each group to begin
by asking one of their questions to the other. Once the two students discuss the
question. The other student will ask a question and they will alternate accordingly.
During this time, the teacher is going around the class from group to group giving
feedback and answering questions. This system is also referred to as a student

A short written exercise that is often used is the "one minute paper." This is a
good way to review materials and provide feedback. However a "one minute
paper" does not take one minute and for students to concisely summarize it is
suggested[who?] that they have at least 10 minutes to work on this exercise.

A collaborative learning group is a successful way to learn different material for

different classes. It is where you assign students in groups of 3-6 people and they
are given an assignment or task to work on together. This assignment could be
either to answer a question to present to the entire class or a project. Make sure
that the students in the group choose a leader and a note-taker to keep them on
track with the process. This is a good example of active learning because it causes
the students to review the work that is being required at an earlier time to
participate.???? (McKinney, Kathleen. (2010). Active Learning. Normal, IL.
Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology.)

A student debate is an active way for students to learn because they allow
students the chance to take a position and gather information to support their view
and explain it to others. These debates not only give the student a chance to
participate in a fun activity but it also lets them gain some experience with giving
a verbal presentation. (McKinney, Kathleen. (2010). Active Learning. Normal, IL.
Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology.)

A reaction to a video is also an example of active learning because most students

love to watch movies. The video helps the student to understand what they are
learning at the time in an alternative presentation mode. Make sure that the video
relates to the topic that they are studying at the moment. Try to include a few
questions before you start the video so they will pay more attention and notice

where to focus at during the video. After the video is complete divide the students
either into groups or pairs so that they may discuss what they learned and write a
review or reaction to the movie. (McKinney, Kathleen. (2010). Active Learning.
Normal, IL. Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology.)

A class game is also considered an energetic way to learn because it not only
helps the students to review the course material before a big exam but it helps
them to enjoy learning about a topic. Different games such as jeopardy ???and
crossword puzzles always seem to get the students minds going. (McKinney,
Kathleen. (2010). Active Learning. Normal, IL. Center for Teaching, Learning &

While practice is useful to reinforce learning, problem solving is not always suggested.
Sweller (1988) found solving problems can even have negative influence on learning,
instead he suggests that learners should study worked examples, because this is a more
efficient method of schema acquisition. So instructors are cautioned to give learners some
basic or initial instruction first, perhaps to be followed up with an activity based upon the
above methods.

[edit] Active learning method: Learning by teaching

Main article: Learning by teaching
An efficient instructional strategy that mixes guidance with active learning is "Learning
by teaching" (Martin 1985, Martin/Oebel 2007). This strategy allows students to teach
the new content to each other. Of course they must be accurately guided by instructors.
This methodology was introduced during the early 1980s, especially in Germany, and is
now well-established in all levels of the German educational system.[2] "Learning by
teaching" is integration of behaviorism and cognitivism and offers a coherent framework
for theory and practice.

[edit] Active learning and Policy

Policy may be satisfied by demonstrating the instructional effectiveness of instruction.
Educational rubrics are a good way to evaluate "active learning" based instruction. These
instructional tools can be used to describe the various different qualities of any activity. In
addition, if given to the student, they can provide additional guidance (here is an example
In the past few years outcome-based education policy has begun to limit instructors to
only using those techniques that have been shown to be effective. In the United States for
instance, the No Child Left Behind Act requires those developing instruction to show
evidence of its "effectiveness."

[edit] Research supporting active learning

One study has shown evidence to support active learning.[3] Bonwell and Eison (1991)
state that active learning strategies are comparable to lectures for achieving content
mastery, but superior to lectures for developing thinking and writing skills.[4]

[edit] Should learning occur while one is behaviorally

Some educational literature from the past few decades suggests initial skill acquisition
occurs best when one is cognitively active (Mayer, 2004), but not behaviorally active.[5]
Certainly practicing procedural skills is a necessity for learning to be automated. But
while these activities may be motivating for learners, these unguided situations can in fact
leave learners less competent than when they began the activity.[5]
One 2007 study compared results for college students in six different versions of a
computer literacy course. In some groups, instructional elements were left out
(objectives, information, examples, practice with feedback, review). The "practice with
feedback" is the active learning component of the study. The researchers found that in all
cases, students who had practice with feedback had better performance and more positive
attitudes than those students who did not have opportunities for practice.[6]
Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark[5] suggest that novices be taught with direct methods of
instruction like worked examples. Sweller (2006) discusses the worked-example effect as
a alternative to problem-solving for novices. However practice with feedback is
condoned and even encouraged by Sweller and his associated because these types of
learning are important for those who already acquired a schema (Kalyuga, Ayres,
Chandler, & Sweller, 2003) therefore there is no conflict between Kirschner, Sweller, and
Clark's views, and those of Klein and Sullivan. Each agrees that the learner be given
practice with feedback. Kirschner et al. (2006) propose instruction should, however,
begin with worked examples.

[edit] Studying examples as an alternative to active

learning strategies
Self-guided instruction is possible, but Sweller and Cooper argue that it is often arduous,
clumsy, and less than efficient (Sweller and Cooper, 1985). Sweller (1988) suggests
learners should first study worked examples because this is a more efficient method of
initial instruction. Sweller and Cooper found that learners who studied worked examples
performed significantly better than learners who actively solved problems (Sweller &
Cooper, 1985; Cooper & Sweller, 1987). This was later called the "worked-example
effect" (Clark, Nguyen and Sweller, 2006).

Evidence for learning by studying worked examples (the worked-example effect) has
been found to be useful in many domains [e.g. music, chess, athletics (Atkinson, Derry,
Renkl, & Wortham, 2000); concept mapping (Hilbert & Renkl, 2007); geometry (Tarmizi
and Sweller, 1988); physics, mathematics, or programming (Gerjets, Scheiter, and
Catrambone, 2004)]. Finally the worked example effect is only useful for novices
(Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, and Sweller, 2003), so again practice is a necessity, but only
later after a student has the underlying schema in place.

[edit] Learning in Sudbury model democratic schools

Main article: Sudbury model
Sudbury model democratic schools criticize today's schools, the concept of learning
disabilities, special education, and response to intervention, taking the position that every
child has a different learning style and pace and that each child is unique, not only
capable of learning but also capable of succeeding.
They believe there are many reasons why children may have difficulty learning,
especially when the learning is imposed and the subject is something the child, or the
young, or even the adult is not interested in, as is frequently done in today's school
Sudbury model democratic schools assert that there are many ways to study and learn.
They argue that learning is a process people do, not a process that is done to people; they
affirm this is true of everyone and it is basic.[7] The experience of Sudbury model
democratic schools, they adduce, shows there are many ways to learn without the
intervention of a teacher being imperative. They maintain that in the case of reading for
instance in the Sudbury model democratic schools some children learn from being read
to, memorizing the stories and then ultimately reading them. Others learn from cereal
boxes, others from game instructions, others from street signs. Some teach themselves
letter sounds, others syllables, others whole words. Sudbury model democratic schools
adduce that in their schools no one child has ever been forced, pushed, urged, cajoled, or
bribed into learning how to read or write, and they affirm they have had no dyslexia.
They also assert that none of their graduates are real or functional illiterates, and claim no
one who meets their older students could ever guess the age at which they first learned to
read or write.[8] They also claim that in a similar form students learn all the subjects,
techniques and skills in these schools. The staff are minor actors, the "teacher" is an
adviser and helps just when asked.[9][10]
Describing current instructional methods as homogenization and lockstep
standardization, alternative approaches are proposed, such as the Sudbury model
democratic schools, an alternative approach in which they affirm children, by enjoying
personal freedom thus encouraged to exercise personal responsibility for their actions,
learn at their own pace and style rather than following a compulsory and chronologicallybased curriculum.[11][12][13]

A healthy upbringing gives free reign [sic] to children from the very beginnings of their
lives to recognize and express their basic needs. The earlier this begins, and the longer it
is allowed to develop without intervention, the more likely it is that such children will go
through life with a firmly established set of inner-directed guidelines that enable them to
distinguish clearly between needs that are real for them, and needs that are artificially
introduced by others. Indeed, the worst excesses of our consumer economy can be traced
directly to the inability of people to make this distinction, which is a result of being raised
according to the principles of Industrial Era Thinking.[14]
As Sudbury model of democratic education schools, proponents of unschooling have also
claimed that children raised in this method do not suffer from learning disabilities, thus
not requiring the prevention of academic failure through intervention.
Professional Development Module on Active Learning
Community College

By Diane Starke, El Paso

Purpose: Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in
class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out
answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past
experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of
themselves. -- Chickering, A & Gamson, Z. F. (March 1987) Seven principles for good
practice. AAHE Bulletin 39: 3-7.
Research has demonstrated that students learn more if they are actively engaged with the
material they are studying. This self-paced module consists of annotated websites which
include definitions, active learning strategies for use in the college classroom, and
practical suggestions and examples of active learning activities.
Key Concepts:

What is Active Learning?

Research on Active Learning
Common Roadblocks to Active Student Participation
Using Active Learning Techniques in the College Classroom

Section 1: What is Active Learning?

Active Learning is, in short, anything that students do in a classroom other than merely
passively listening to an instructor's lecture. This includes everything from listening
practices which help the students to absorb what they hear, to short writing exercises in
which students react to lecture material, to complex group exercises in which students
apply course material to "real life" situations and/or to new problems. Paulson & Faust,
California State University, Los Angeles,

This website from Stoutland Elementary School in Missouri, provides an extensive list of
the various definitions of active learning originally posted by the Teaching Resource
Center at UC Davis. Excerpts of the definitions are presented followed by full texts of the
definitions with citations.
Powerful Partnerships: A Shared Responsibility for Learning (1998 Joint Report,
American Association for Higher Education, et. al.) describes learning as an inherently
active process:
Learning in an active search for meaning by the learner--constructive knowledge rather
than passively receiving it, shaping as well as being shaped by experience....To stimulate
an active search for meaning, faculty [must]:

expect and demand student participation in activities in and beyond the

design projects and endeavors through which students apply their knowledge and
skills; and
build programs that feature extended and increasingly challenging opportunities
for growth and development.

To locate more resources about active learning, visit this annotated bibliography:
Section 2: Research on Active Learning
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., and Donovan, S. (1998). "Effects of cooperative learning on
undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis."
(Research Monograph No. 11). Madison: University of Wisconsin-Madison, National
Institute for Science Education, Review of Educational Research
Felder, R., Felder, G., and Dietz, E.J. (1998). "A longitudinal study of engineering student
performance and retention vs. comparisons with traditionally-taught students." Journal of
Engineering Education, 87(4), 469-480.
Hake, Richard R., "Interactive-engagement vs. traditional methods: A six-thousandstudent survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses." (1998).
American Journal of Physics, 66, 64- 74. http://www.physics.indiana.edu/
Winter, D., Lemons, P., Bookman, J., Hoese, W. (2001) "Novice instructors and studentcentered instruction: identifying and addressing obstacles to learning in the college

science laboratory." The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2(1). Two
biologists and two mathematicians collected data through clinical observations of 40
laboratory sections. Identifies and analyzes some problems with the implementation of
student-centered instruction in introductory college science and mathematics laboratory
courses. Potential problems include those associated with interactions between the
instructor and individual students, interactions between the instructor and small groups of
students, and the instructors ability to monitor the learning environment. Provides
practical suggestions for dealing with each category of problems.
Tobin, K. (1986). "Effects of teacher wait time on discourse characteristics in
mathematics and language arts classes." American Educational Research Journal, 23,
Research summaries at http://www.active-learning-site.com/sum1.htm discuss how
talking less during lectures increases student learning.
Section 3: Common Roadblocks to Active Student Participation
In their very helpful article "Navigating the Bumpy Road to Student-Centered
Instruction," (http://www.ncsu.edu/felder-public/Papers/Resist.html) Richard M. Felder
and Rebecca Brent explore the change from a lecture-based classroom to a more studentcentered learning environment:
In the traditional approach to higher education, the burden of communicating course
material resides primarily with the instructor. In student-centered instruction (SCI), some
of this burden is shifted to the students. SCI is a broad approach that includes such
techniques as substituting active learning experiences for lectures, holding students
responsible for material that has not been explicitly discussed in class, assigning openended problems and problems requiring critical or creative thinking that cannot be
solved by following text examples, involving students in simulations and role-plays,
assigning a variety of unconventional writing exercises, and using self-paced and/or
cooperative (team-based) learning...
They go on to explain that "while the promised benefits are real, they are neither
immediate nor automatic.... D. R. Woods (1994) observes that students forced to take
major responsibility for their own learning go through some or all of the steps
psychologists associate with trauma and grief." While the students are grousing, faculty
may have second-thoughts as well.
The authors many of the common concerns about active learning, including:

If I spend time in class on active learning exercises, I'll never get through the
If I don't lecture I'll lose control of the class.

Some of my students just don't seem to get what I'm asking them to do-they keep
trying to find "the right answer" to open-ended problems, they still don't have a
clue about what a critical question is, and the problems they make up are
consistently trivial.
When I tried active learning in one of my classes, many of the students hated it.
Some refused to cooperate and made their hostility to the approach and to me very
I'm having a particularly hard time getting my students to work in teams. Many of
them resent having to do it and a couple of them protested to my department head
about it.
If I assign homework, presentation, or projects to groups, some students will
"hitchhike," getting credit for work in which they did not actively participate.
Many of the cooperative teams in my class are not working well-their assignments
are superficial and incomplete and some team members keep complaining to me
about others not participating.
Teams working together on quantitative problem assignments may always rely on
one or two members to get the problem solutions started. The others may then
have difficulties on individual tests, when they must begin the solutions
I teach a class containing students in minority populations that tend to be at risk
academically. Does active, cooperative learning work in this kind of setting?
Even though I've done everything the experts recommend, some of my students
still complain that they don't like the student-centered approach I'm using and
they would have learned more if they had taken a "normal" class.

Another highly recommended article is "Getting Students Involved in the Classroom,"

excerpted from Bergquist, W.H. & Phillips, S.R. (1975). A Handbook for Faculty
Development. Council for the Advancement of Small Colleges, Washington, D.C.
http://www.clt.cornell.edu/campus/teach/faculty/Materials/GettingStsInvolved.pdf The
authors detail the more common causes for student non-involvementinstructors using
one-way communication; students preferring involvement-avoidance learning styles;
courses lacking specific structures that foster participationand offer some possible
Section 4: Using Active Learning Techniques in the College Classroom
This website presents a model for active learning developed by L. Dee Fink for the
University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program to assist teachers in
identifying meaningful forms of active learning to use in the classroom. The premise of
the model is that all learning activities involve some kind of experience (observing and/or
doing) and some kind of dialogue (dialogue with self and/or with others). There are also
suggestions on how to use the model to incorporate active learning into ones teaching.

The Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Kansas offers "Using Class Time
Well: Active Learning"--the perfect place to start.
Although the Active/Collaborative Learning website from the Foundation Coalition is
subtitled "Best Practices in Engineering Education," the site contains many helpful
sections, particularly Overview, Preparing, Planning, and Implementing.
Guidelines for using active learning in the college classroom are also presented at
http://www.fctl.ucf.edu/tresources/content/ActiveLearningGuidelines.pdf and include the
following examples:

Professor is student-oriented.
Students participate in goal setting.
Climate is collegial and supportive.
Activities are problem-centered and student-driven.
Assessment is continuous and supportive.
Teaching is developmental rather than directive and presentational.

Adapting the Lecture Format

"Active Learning for the College Classroom," provides a survey of a wide variety of
active learning techniques which can be used to supplement rather than replace lectures.
The authors, Donald Paulson and Jennifer Faust present techniques for use with
individual students (without interrupting the whole class) as well as techniques for use
with small groups or the whole class.
D.C. Seeler, D.C., Turnwald, G.H., and Bull, K.S. (1994). "From teaching to learning,
part III: lectures and approaches to active learning." Journal of Veterinary Medical
Education, 21 (1). http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JVME/V21-1/Seeler1.html Their
work explores some of the practical issues related to active learning and discusses ways
in which the instructor can improve upon the lecture in order to increase student learning
and activity. Methods include questioning, modified lecture formats, brainstorming and
tests and quizzes.
Some educators argue that a lecture is not an active method of learning. The On Course
website section "Lecture as Active Learning" presents examples to the contrary.
The website for Cleveland State University's Center for Teaching and Learning includes a
section on "Active Learning for Almost Any Size Class" with ideas for three alternative
lecture formats:

Feedback Lecture two mini lectures separated by a small-group study session.

Guided Lecture a half-class lecture with no note taking, followed by a short
period of individual student recall, in turn followed by small-group activity -reconstruction of the lecture with instructor assistance.
Responsive Lecture devote one class each week to answering open-ended,
student-generated questions. Questions may or may not be submitted in advance.

The Active Learning Exchange (ALEx) database at Penn State's Shreyer Institute for
Innovative Learning offers descriptions of 28 active learning strategies to use in your
courses. The Shreyer Institute's instructional designers have researched each strategy in
the database in order to provide you with classroom-tested instructional methods. Each
entry contains a summary of the strategy, ease of use rating, class size, student level,
more details about how to implement the strategy, references and links to core
competencies. Great site! http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/resources/alex/
The On Course website mentioned previously also has a section called "Student Success
Strategies" with a subheading "Interdependence" that offers 16 case studies and
assignments that have already been tested in the college classroom.
Facilitating Discussion: A Brief Guide by Katherine K. Gottschalk, Director of Freshman
Writing Seminars in Cornell University's John S. Knight Writing Program, provides
helpful insight on:

Creating rapport
Encouraging participation
Facilitating discussion
Getting students to talk to and argue with each other
Using small groups
Other ideas for invigorating your class

The "Alternatives to Large Group Discussion" website advises that "Meeting as a large
group for discussion week after week can get old for students and instructors...a variety
of activities [will] keep student participation and interest high. You will also find that
different students shine depending upon the class format." Included are suggestions for
simulations, field trips, concept maps, debates, games, invited speakers, panel
presentations, and small groups.
The website of the chemical engineering department at McMaster University provides
excellent resources for facilitating problem-based learning--learning in which "the

problem drives the learning....that is, before students learn some knowledge they are
given a problem. The problem is posed so that the students discover that they need to
learn some new knowledge before they can solve the problem."
[http://chemeng.mcmaster.ca/pbl/pbl.htm] Included as a resource is an electronic copy of
D. R. Woods' book, Problem-based Learning: Helping Your Students Gain the Most from
PBLwritten for teachers to give them the process for implementing their personal style
of PBL for their environment.
The chapters include:
1. Why PBL? Improving learning and selecting a version of PBL that is suitable for you
2. On being a coach/facilitator
3. What about processing skills used in PBL?
4. Issues about setting up small group, self directed, self assessed PBL
5. Questions and answers about assessment
6. How might I use the companion book "How to gain the most from PBL"
7. Literature resources for PBL
Examples of how to incorporate active learning are explained on this website. The author
provides illustrations of several types of paired activities: think/pair/share, question and
answer pairs, and note-checking pairs. Guidelines for using paired activities are also
included. Finally, there are sections on planning an active learning activity and keys to
success. http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/MinnCon/active.html
The Indiana University Teaching Handbook discusses specific instructional
methodologies, including lecturing, facilitating discussions, group work, assessing
student performance, using case studies, managing science labs, and teaching with
technology. Particularly good are the sections on using questions as a teaching tool and
facilitating discussions.
The University of Oregon's Teaching Effectiveness Program Website
http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/assessment/successfulgroupassign/groups.html provides
lessons learned from Michael Sweet, who used peer evaluation with a freshman seminar
(see "Petting the Shark: Using Student Peer Evaluations") and an introduction to
formalized Team Learning.
Larry Michaelsen's Team-Based Learning concept is differentiated from "group" learning
as a process by which an instructor consciously creates the conditions that will enable
student "groups" to become student "teams:
As the students begin to trust each other and develop a commitment to the goals and
welfare of the group, they become a team. When they become a cohesive team, the team
can do things that neither a single individual nor a newly-formed group can do.
Faculty who use the TBL strategy need to be well versed in:

Appropriately forming teams ensures that they will have the resources needed to
complete assignments that are difficult enough to produce significant learning.
Using an appropriate grading system provides incentives for individual pre-class
preparation and for expending time and effort on behalf of their team.
Using the Readiness Assurance Process ensures that students will complete preclass assignments so that they are prepared for in-class team work.
Using effective application-focused team assignments both builds team
cohesiveness and rewards students for taking responsibility for their own pre-class
preparation. http://www.ou.edu/idp/teamlearning/

To see video demonstrations of Michaelsen implementing various aspects of the whole

Team-Based Learning process, visit:
A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used
by learners is drawn from resources on the Internet, optionally supplemented with
videoconferencing. WebQuests are designed to use learners' time well, to focus on using
information rather than looking for it, and to support learners' thinking at the levels of
analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The model was developed in early 1995 at San Diego
State University by Bernie Dodge with Tom March, and was outlined then in "Some
Thoughts About WebQuests."
http://edweb.sdsu.edu/courses/edtec596/about_webquests.html The article describes
short-term and long-term WebQuest activities as well as the critical and non-critical
attributes, thinking skills involved, and design process associated with WebQuests.
Examples can be found at http://webquest.org/ under the categories "Top," "Middling,"
and "New."
"Strategies to Incorporate Active Learning into Online Teaching" by Diane Austin,
Instructor and Distance Learning Technology Specialist, University of South Florida and
Nadine D. Mescia, Director of Training, Florida Center for Leadership in Public Health
Practice, University of South Florida, argue that:
Components of good active learning activities are the same, whether presented in
traditional or in online environments. Activities should 1) have a definite beginning and
ending; 2) have a clear purpose or objective; 3) contain complete and understandable
directions; 4) have a feedback mechanism; and 5) and include a description of the
technology or tool being used in the exercise.
Austin and Mescia list examples of active learning strategies that can be successfully
adapted for use in the online classroom:

Assessment - tests and quizzes that provide immediate feedback

Readings, case studies
Discussions (virtual chat, bulletin board)
Writings (reflective journals, summaries, essays, critiques)
Projects- group or individual

Experiential Learning: Internships/Preceptor-ships/ Externships

Demonstrations with questioning (video clips)
Study/support groups
Visual-based instruction (streamed video or CD)
Games & Simulations
Problem solving
Online Presentations
Community building
Directed research

The Web: Design for Active Learning, a handbook by Katy Campbell at the University of
Alberta, presents the idea of interactivity as it applies to a cohesive design including high
interface, content, and instructional design. She provides six complex conceptual
frameworks that interweave cognitive theories and instructional strategies. The
frameworks can be used to organize lessons. In addition, she offers annotated links to
"exemplary active learning sites."

Strategies for Use in Assorted Disciplines:

The University of Oregon 's Teaching Effectiveness Program website offers step-by-step
guidance for creating successful group assignments with criteria and examples in
Biology, Business, Early Intervention/Psychology, Geology, and Journalism.
Giordano, P.J. & Hammer, E.Y. (1999). In-class collaborative learning: Practical
suggestions from the teaching trenches. Teaching of Psychology, 26(1), 42-44.
Hoban, G. (Fall,1999). Using a reflective framework for experiential education in teacher
education classes. Journal of Experiential Education, 22(2), 104-111
Livingston, K. (2000). When Architecture Disables: Teaching Undergraduates To
Perceive Ableism in the Built Environment. Teaching Sociology, 28(3), 182-91.
Strategies for Use in Humanities Courses:
"Active Learning Strategies for Humanities Curricula" Middle Tennessee State
University Department of Philosophy
This site provides a bibliography of resources on using active learning to teach
communicationwritten and oral.

Frederick, P.J. (1991). Active learning in history classes. Teaching History, 16(2), 67-83.
McAndrews, L.J. (1991). Tearing down the wall: Adventures in active learning. The
History Teacher, 25(1), 35-43.
Jones, P., Taylor, A. & Tate, D. (1997). Flip it! And you be the judge: Two cooperativelearning activities to teach foreign languages. Cooperative Learning and College
Teaching, 7(2), 5-7.
Strategies for Use in Business and Economics Courses:
"Problem-Based Learning in Business Education: Curriculum Design and
Implementation Issues" is a journal article in which John E. Stinson and Richard G.
Milter discuss their eleven years experience using a problem-based approach.
This site provides a bibliography of resources on using active learning to teach business
and computer science.
Berg, J.D., Hughes, J., McCabe, J., & Rayburn, K. (1995). Capital market experience for
financial accounting students. Contemporary Accounting Research, 11(2), 941-958.
Krunweide, T. & Bline, D. (1997). Encouraging active learning through the use of student
developed problems. The Accounting Educators' Journal, 9(2), 116-129.
Lawson, T.J. (1995). Active-learning exercises for consumer behavior courses. Teaching
of Psychology, 22(3), 200-202.
Pernecky, M. (1997). Debate for the economics class-and others. College Teaching,
45(4), 136-138.
Truscott, M. H., Rustogi, H., & Young C. B. (2000). Enhancing the Macroeconomics
Course: An Experiential Learning Approach. Journal of Economic Education, 31(1), 6065.
Strategies for Use in Mathematics Courses:
Hare, A.C. (1997). Active Learning and assessment in mathematics. College Teaching,
45(2), 76-77.
Rosenthal, J.S. (1995). Active learning strategies in advanced mathematics classes.
Studies in Higher Education, 20(2), 223-228.
Perkins, D. V. & Saris, R. N. (2001). A "Jigsaw Classroom" Technique for Undergraduate
Statistics Courses. Teaching of Psychology, 28(2), 111-13.

Strategies for Use in Science Courses:

Robert J. Dufresne, et. al., describe their experiences teaching physics with a classroom
communication system called Classtalk in the article "Classtalk: A Classroom
Communication System for Active Learning." They used technology-mediated response
systems to facilitate the presentation of questions for small group work, as well as the
collection of student answers and the display of histograms showing how the class
answered, all of which fed into a class-wide discussion of students' reasoning.
Anderson, C.W. (1987). Strategic teaching in science. In B.F. Jones, A.S. Palincsar, D.S.
Ogle & E.G. Carr (Eds.), Strategic teaching and learning: Cognitive instruction in the
content areas (pp. 7391). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Benjamin, L.T. (1991). Personalization and active learning in the large introductory
psychology class. Teaching of Psychology, 18(2), 68-74.
Cliff, W. H. & Curtin, L. N. (2000). The Directed Case Method. Journal of College
Science Teaching, 30(1), 64-66.
Gosser, D.G. & Roth, V. (1998). The workshop chemistry project: Peer-led team learning.
Journal of Chemical Education, 75(2), 185-187.
Hanks, T. W. & Wright, L. L. (2002). Techniques in Chemistry: The Centerpiece of a
Research-Oriented Curriculum. Journal of Chemical Education, 79(9), 1127-30.
Hoffman, E. A. (2001). Successful Application of Active Learning Techniques to
Introductory Microbiology. Microbiology Education, 2(1), 5-11.
Lunsford, B.E., & Herzog, M.J.R. (1997). Active learning in anatomy and physiology:
Student reactions & outcomes in a nontraditional A&P course. The American Biology
Teacher, 59(2), 80-84.
Meyers, S.A. (1997). Increasing student participation and productivity in small-group
activities for psychology classes. Teaching of Psychology, 24(2), 105-115.
Modell, H.I. & Michael J.A. (1993). Promoting active learning in the life science
classroom. New York: New York Academy of Sciences.
Savarese, M. (1998). Collaborative learning in an upper-division university geobiology
course. Journal of Geoscience Education, 46(1), 61-66
Weimer, M.G. (Jan. 1997). Problem-based learning models, an effective alternative in
science courses. The Teaching Professor, 11(1), 4.

By L. Dee Fink
Reprinted with permission of the University of Oklahoma Instructional Development Program, July 19,

Many college teachers today want to move past passive learning to active learning, to
find better ways of engaging students in the learning process. But many teachers feel
a need for help in imagining what to do, in or out of class, that would constitute a
meaningful set of active learning activities.
The model below offers a way of conceptualizing the learning process in a way that
may assist teachers in identifying meaningful forms of active learning.
A Model of Active Learning

Explanation of the Components

This model suggests that all learning activities involve some kind of experience or
some kind of dialogue. The two main kinds of dialogue are "Dialogue with Self" and
"Dialogue with Others." The two main kinds of experience are "Observing" and
Dialogue with Self:
This is what happens when a learner thinks reflectively about a topic, i.e., they
ask themselves what they think or should think what they feel about the topic,
etc. This is "thinking about my own thinking," but it addresses a broader array
of questions than just cognitive concerns. A teacher can ask students, on a
small scale, to keep a journal for a course, or, on a larger scale, to develop a
learning portfolio. In either case, students could write about what they are
learning, how they are learning, what role this knowledge or learning plays in
their own life, how this makes them feel, etc.

Dialogue with Others:

This can and does come in many forms. In traditional teaching, when students
read a textbook or listen to a lecture, they are "listening to" another person
(teacher, book author). This can perhaps be viewed as "partial dialogue" but it
is limited because there is no back-and-forth exchange. A much more dynamic
and active form of dialogue occurs when a teacher creates an intense small
group discussion on a topic. Sometimes teachers can also find creative ways
to involve students in dialogue situations with people other than students (e.g.,
practitioners, experts), either in class or outside of class. Whoever the
dialogue is with, it might be done live, in writing, or by email.
This occurs whenever a learner watches or listens to someone else "Doing"
something that is related to what they are learning about. This might be such
things as observing one's teacher do something (e.g., "This is how I critique a
novel."), listening to other professionals perform (e.g., musicians), or
observing the phenomena being studied (natural, social, or cultural). The act
of observing may be "direct" or "vicarious." A direct observation means the
learner is observing the real action, directly; a vicarious observation is
observing a simulation of the real action. For example, a direct observation of
poverty might be for the learner to actually go to where low income people
are living and working, and spend some time observing life there. A vicarious
or indirect observation of the same topic might be to watch a movie involving
poor people or to read stories written by or about them.
This refers to any learning activity where the learner actually does something:
design a reservoir dam (engineering), conduct a high school band (music
education), design and/or conduct an experiment (natural and social sciences),
critique an argument or piece of writing (the humanities), investigate local
historical resources(history), make an oral presentation (communication), etc.
Again, "Doing" may be direct or vicarious. Case studies, role-playing and
simulation activities offer ways of vicariously engaging students in the
"Doing" process. To take one example mentioned above, if one is trying to
learn how to conduct a high school band, direct "Doing" would be to actually
go to a high school and direct the students there. A vicarious "Doing" for the
same purpose would be to simulate this by having the student conduct a band
composed of fellow college students who were acting like (i.e., role playing)
high school students. Or, in business courses, doing case studies is, in essence,
a simulation of the decision making process that many courses are aimed at
Implementing This Model of Active Learning
So, what can a teacher do who wants to use this model to incorporate more active

learning into his/her teaching? I would recommend the following three suggestions,
each of which involves a more advanced use of active learning.
1. Expand the Kinds of Learning Experiences You Create.
The most traditional teaching consists of little more than having students read
a text and listen to a lecture, a very limited and limiting form of Dialogue with
Others. Consider using more dynamic forms of Dialogue with Others and the
other three modes of learning. For example:
Create small groups of students and have them make a decision or
answer a focused question periodically,
o Find ways for students to engage in authentic dialogue with people
other than fellow classmates who know something about the subject
(on the web, by email, or live),
o Have students keep a journal or build a "learning portfolio" about their
own thoughts, learning, feelings, etc.,
o Find ways of helping students observe (directly or vicariously) the
subject or action they are trying to learn, and/or
o Find ways to allow students to actually do (directly, or vicariously
with case studies, simulation or role play) that which they need to
learn to do.
2. Take Advantage of the "Power of Interaction."

Each of the four modes of learning has its own value, and just using more of
them should add variety and thereby be more interesting for the learner.
However, when properly connected, the various learning activities can have
an impact that is more than additive or cumulative; they can be interactive
and thereby multiply the educational impact.
For example, if students write their own thoughts on a topic (Dialogue with
Self) before they engage in small group discussion (Dialogue with Others),
the group discussion should be richer and more engaging. If they can do both
of these and then observe the phenomena or action (Observation), the
observation should be richer and again more engaging. Then, if this is
followed by having the students engage in the action itself (Doing), they will
have a better sense of what they need to do and what they need to learn during
doing. Finally if, after Doing, the learners process this experience by writing
about it (Dialogue with Self) and/or discussing it with others (Dialogue with
Others), this will add further insight. Such a sequence of learning activities
will give the teacher and learners the advantage of the Power of Interaction.
Alternatively, advocates of Problem-Based Learning would suggest that a
teacher start with "Doing" by posing a real problem for students to work on,
and then having students consult with each other (Dialogue with Others) on
how best to proceed in order to find a solution to the problem. The learners
will likely use a variety of learning options, including Dialogue with Self and

3. Create Dialectic Between Experience and Dialogue.
One refinement of the Interaction Principle described above is simply to
create dialectic between the two principle components of this Model of Active
Learning: Experience and Dialogue. New experiences (whether of Doing or
Observing) have the potential to give learners a new perspective on what is
true (beliefs) and/or what is good (values) in the world. Dialogue (whether
with Self or with Others) has the potential to help learners construct the many
possible meanings of experience and the insights that come from them. A
teacher who can creatively set up a dialectic of learning activities in which
students move back and forth between having rich new experiences and
engaging in deep, meaningful dialogue, can maximize the likelihood that the
learners will experience significant and meaningful learning.

People generally remember.

(learning activities )
10% of what they read -- read
20% of what they hear -- hear

People are able to.

(learning outcomes)
Define, list
Describe, explain

30% of what they see -- view images, watch videos?

50 % of what they see and hear attend , watch a demonstration
30% - 50 % Demonstrate, apply, practice
70% of what they say and write participate in hands-on-workshops
Design collaborative? lessons
90% of what they do -- simulate, model, or experience a lesson

-- Design / Perform a presentation Do the real thing

--Analyze, define, create, evaluate

But are they learning?