What is Active Learning

Active learning is a general description of any instructional strategy that is used in the classroom to engage students in considering the consequences of their learning or to apply their knowledge to solving problems. This is in contrast to traditional lecturing where the professor does all the talking delivering course content which students passively receive. There are many examples of active learning: think-pair-share, minute papers, peer instruction (polling), team-based learning, problem-based learning, case-based learning, among others. Many of these structured active learning strategies require students to prepare outside of the classroom (e.g. assigned reading or podcasts) in order to be able to apply their learning inside the classroom. The right mix of lecturing and active learning will vary by students' year level and by course objectives as well as an instructor's past experience teaching the course.


Is there a relationship between student resilience and resistance to active learning?
Annotated bibliography prepared by Cole D. Gross.

I Want to Be an Intellectual Coach, Not a PEZ Dispenser
Dr. Neil Haave shares the ideas that resonated with him following Dr. José Bowen's appearance at the Festival of Teaching and Learning. 

Reasoning with Student Resistance
The next time you explain a group activity to your class and are met with questions like "Do we have to?" consider trying this.

Resistance to Active Learning—Teaching Plus Podcast
Tried active learning in your class only to have students scoff at the idea? Don't give up hope! Dr. Maryellen Weimer, professor emerita of teaching and learning at Penn State Berks discusses the use of active learning in the post-secondary classroom. 

Nudges, the Learning Economy and a New 3Rs: Redesigning for Student Relationships, Resilience and Reflection with Keynote Dr. José Bowen 
Technology has created a new learning economy. If we want this new economy to be more inclusive, we will need to prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist, learning new information on their own. The liberal arts have never mattered more, but new circumstances demand that we make our value more explicit. If we are serious that we teach the ability to ask better questions, interrogate information, reframe problems and transform thinking, then we need to focus more on that process. A convergence of behavioral economics, neuro-science, and cognitive psychology suggest both a new focus (a new educational 3Rs of "Relationships, Resilience and Reflection" as the "what") and new ways for this to be designed and delivered (the "how"). Our shift from teaching to learning is incomplete unless we recognize that our best way to help students is to design environments that "nudge" them into better learning behaviors. Like it or not, we are only their cognitive coaches, on the sidelines, and we cannot do the work for them.

Other Resources

Strategies for Designing and Using Active Learning Classrooms, Harvard Business Publishing (Education, October 2019)