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Active learning overview

What is “active learning?”

Active learning techniques are teaching methods that allow the student to mentally and/or physically engage with the material. This engagement allows the learner to better process the information and creates a longer-lasting memory. In order to better process information, students need to:

  1. Recognize the information is related to something they already know OR have multiple contacts with entirely new information.
  2. Attach new information to what they already know.
  3. Be able to think about their thinking.
  4. See the benefit of learning the material.

How can you incorporate active learning into your classroom?

  1.  Help students recognize the information is related to something they already know.
    1. Have student keep a journal answering the following questions:
      1. How does this material relate to my everyday world?
      2. How does this material relate to my major/chosen profession?
    2. Draw analogies, or have the student draw analogies, between the material and the everyday world.
    3. Use concept mapping.
    4. Construct your lessons to draw on material previously presented.
    5. Remind students that your lessons draw on previous information.
    6. Revisit previous material briefly, or have student recall previous material through targeted questions, when introducing a related topic.
  2. Give the students multiple contacts with new information.
    1. Coordinate lab/performance and lecture activities so that information in one is revisited in the other.
    2. Stagger assignments so students revisit information several weeks after it is first introduced.
    3. Never mention a topic just once.
    4. Give students feedback during or after practice sessions.
  3. Attach new information to what they already know
    1. Use concept mapping.
    2. Give students problems to solve using both new and old information.
  4. Help students to think about their thinking.
    1. Have student keep a journal answering the following questions:
      1. How does this material relate to my everyday world?
      2. How does this material relate to my major/chosen profession?
    2. Have students interact with others.
      1. Create small groups of students and have them make a decision or answer a thought-provoking question periodically.
      2. Write their answer to your thought-provoking question first and then discuss it with classmates.
      3. Create real-life problems for students to solve in groups.
  5. Help students see the benefit of the material.
    1. Find ways of helping students observe (directly or vicariously) the subject or action they are trying to learn.
    2. 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.
    3. Create real-life problems for students to solve in groups.
    4. Use journaling as mentioned above.

Want to learn more?

Go to these websites:

  1. Active Learning Techniques: In Class Activities
  2. Angles on Learning: An introduction to learning theories can be accessed via:  http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/
  3. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School can be accessed via: http://newton.nap.edu/html/howpeople1/index.html
 
 
Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 06/20/2013
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