Active Learning

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is embodied in a learning environment where the teachers and students are actively engaged with the content through discussions, problem-solving, critical thinking, debate or a host of other activities that promote interaction among learners, instructors and the material. Active learning is not represented in the teacher-centered classroom where the teacher is an active transmitter of information and the students are passive recipients.

Engaging students in active learning additionally requires that they be involved in higher order thinking at the levels of analysis, evaluation and create (see, Bloom’s Taxonomy). As instructors develop their lesson plans and therein the learning objectives, it is important to consider the situational factors involved, such as the content of the lesson (e.g., theoretical or practical), the learners (e.g., level, age, academic maturity), the context (e.g., classroom or clinical) and the assessments for the lesson (e.g., formative vs. summative; presentation vs. exam). This information will guide the development of learning objectives and help the instructor decide on appropriate verbs to represent the learning activity at various levels – i.e., Analyze: criticize, discern, summarize; Evaluate: debate, prioritize, value; Create: compile, hypothesize, reconstruct).

One of the most comprehensive sites for an overview of Active Learning is that of the University of Minnesota Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). Instead of re-creating the wheel, we invite you to visit their Active Learning page where you will learn more about: the basic elements of active learning; active learning strategies; addressing student resistance; letting go of control; overcoming the ‘cover the content’ paradigm; incorporating peer review; and more! The site includes ‘dramatization’ videos of scenarios highlighted throughout the Active Learning page as well as a rich list of additional resources. Continue reading


(Em)Power in the Clasroom Series (Part 3)

In this series, (Em)Power in the Classroom, we have so far considered what it might look like to share the power with students in the design of courses. In Part 1, I discussed how we worked together as a class – operating more as a learning community – to develop our class culture, our policies, our assignments, etc. I relinquished quite a bit of control in this process rather than adhering to a well-structured syllabus ‘dictating’ how the course will unfold. In Part 2, I presented our process for developing a grading system in the course – the result being a fairly fluid system that focuses more on successfully completing assignments to satisfy various criteria as measured by a simple qualitative likert scale, rather than striving for numbers and percentages equated with letter grades and based on unclear standards. Continue reading

(Em)Power in the Classroom Series (Part 2)

Re-posted from my blog series for the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at the University of Utah.
“While meeting everyone’s needs sounds compassionate and student-centered, it is pedagogically unsound and psychologically demoralizing.” (Brookfield, 1995, p. 21).
Thank goodness!! From classes for undergraduate and graduate students to workshops for faculty, I have, from time to time, had the feeling that I didn’t meet everyone’s needs – as if it were possible; yet, I would still feel bad about it. That, I suppose, is in part  because my top strength (of 34 possible) as identified by a Strengths Finder test is Empathy! Oh boy. According to Brookfield (1995), being a critically reflective teacher is at the core of accepting that it’s just not possible to meet everyone’s needs – it is simply an assumption that we might carry around with us, but it is an assumption that we should shrug off – right along with our Atlas Complex.

(Em)Power in the Classroom Series (Part 1)

This is the latest blog entry that I wrote for the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence at the University of Utah.

What would it look like if we arrived to class on Day One with merely a hint of a syllabus? Well, the folks in CTLE might jump all over us! Wait, I am the ‘folks’ in CTLE and yet, I arrived to my CTLE 6000 course with a hint of a syllabus this semester. Let’s call it a ‘pedagogical experiment’ inspired by one of the core texts for the course: Learner-Centered Teaching by Maryellen Weimer (2002). The basic premise is that students take more responsibility for their learning and become self-regulated when they are actually given some control over their learning… what a concept! Continue reading