Characteristics of Active Learning
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Incorporating Active Learning
Communicate your rationale to your students. When using a new learning activity, clearly describe the learning goals and how the activity will assist them in reaching those goals.
Keep it simple. Have two or three main goals for the class and assess whether the students are achieving those goals.
Remember that this may be a shift for both you and your students. Just as your role becomes one of facilitating the learning process through critical inquiry, your students will need time and guidance as they practice the shift from passive to active learning.
Be prepared to make adjustments if your plans do not work as expected the first time. Understanding which active learning strategies work best for you, your students, and your courses is a process that improves with time.
Active Learning Tools
Useful Minute Paper Questions:
The Fish Bowl
Ask each student to write one issue or concept they want clarified on a card and place it in a fish bowl (cardboard box, hat, etc.) as they enter class. During class, you can select cards from the bowl to clarify these issues or concepts. This gives students who are hesitant to participate an opportunity to ask questions.
You can also do this activity at the end of the class. Reviewing the feedback from the class as a whole gives you insight on the distribution of questions and concerns across the students in your class. At the next class, you can clarify the issues that were shared by the greatest number of students.
Interactive Lectures with Clarification Pauses
After 10 -15 minutes of lecture, circulate around the room for two minutes while students review their notes alone and then in pairs. Then follow up with oral or written questions from students. If you prefer, you might use “clicker” technology to create interactive opportunities with your students.
Promoting Active Listening
After student A has given an answer, ask student B to summarize in their own words the points made by student A. You can also ask a student to rephrase a difficult point you have made.
Response to Demonstration
Oral or in writing. Student may complete the following sentences: I was surprised that … I learned that … I wonder about …
Writing Discussion Questions
Students, at some point during the class, are asked to write a question that will solicit thoughtful discussion on the issues at hand. Or ask them to think about what you’ve just discussed, and write a suitable quiz question.
Think, Pair, Share
Ask question or pose situation, have students write 1 or two lines about the question, then talk to partner for 1-2 minutes. The professor should circulate in the room to hear the discussions and help encourage student to stay on task.
Have students read a paragraph or short piece. They write down the most important point. Or have students cite an example of inference, or good analysis, or an unanswered question from the text, then compare their thoughts with a peer. Poll the class.
On-Line Writing Partners
Assign students into pairs or groups of 3. Have each student write weekly (bi-weekly) about class readings, discussions, and related current events. This assignment can involve analytical writing, asking questions, integrating ideas across texts and discussions, etc. Students then share their writing with their partners who respond with their ideas, responses, and perspectives. This works well on blogs or in Blackboard. Ask students to periodically share their learning with the larger class.
Pass a Problem
Ask students a complex question which requires higher order thinking. Groups get 10 minutes to think about the problem and write a paragraph about the problem. This is put it in a folder and passed to another group. Groups get another 5 minutes to rethink the question, and write again. These thoughts are put in the folder with the original entry. Repeat. Groups then report out their solutions and how seeing others’ ideas and approaches helped them.
Peer Teaching / Student-led Reviews
Assign students topics to research and then prepare a presentation about their topic to share with the class, either formally, informally, or electronically in Blackboard.
Write a set of 15-30 questions reflecting knowledge you expect students to bring into your class. In first class, give every student all the questions. Give each student a 3×5 card with one question and its answer. Give the students 20 minutes to find someone with the answer to each question, get the answer and have it “signed off”. Students meet each other and they review necessary material.
Lab activities and assignments such as oral presentations, interviews, working with case studies, simulations and games, role plays and dramatizations, and debates can each engage students in active learning as well.