The dominant mode of delivering information at the college level has typically been done through formal lecturing where students sit and get instead of actively engage with course material. However, there is a growing body of research that suggests that active learning, or involving students in thinking about and acting on the things that they are learning is far more effective and engaging (Bonwell et. al., 1991; Agarwal et. al., 2019; Lang, 2016; Deslauriers, 2019). On a theoretical level, progressive scholars have always encouraged educators to think of students as intellectuals in their own right, capable of providing their own insights and creating new knowledge. Research on active learning validates these theories as students are known to retain more information and do better on summative assessments when they are in an active learning classroom (Freeman et. al., 2014; Park et. al., 2014).

Creating an active learning environment does not require a complete overhaul of your course or ceasing lecture completely (McMurtrie, 2019). Instead, you can make minor adjustments along the way to make your course more interactive. Consider taking a few minutes at the beginning, middle and end of lecture to engage in an active learning strategy. Or, you can always have students watch a video, read a piece a text or view a lecture before they come to class so that you can use class time to apply and use their newfound knowledge. Active learning activities do not have to be a graded component of class. They work best when they are a low-stakes way for students to practice using class concepts and get immediate feedback from instructors and peers.

Professors who do active learning:

Professor Polly Piergiovanni

Professor Khadijah Mitchell