"Active learning" means students engage with the material, participate in the class, and collaborate with each other. Don't expect your students simply to listen and memorize; instead, have them help demonstrate a process, analyze an argument, or apply a concept to a real-world situation.
Active Learning Strategies
- Think/Pair/Share & Write/Pair/Share
Think/Pair/Share and Write/Pair/Share are activities that allow students to formulate an answer on their own to a question. Then the students pair with a partner (or partners), discuss, and compare their individual answers. After a few minutes of discussion amongst the pairs, the instructors ask groups to report their findings to the entire class.
- Minute Papers
A way of informally evaluating student understanding of difficult concepts is to ask students to take out a sheet of paper and to write an answer to a question about the current topic in 2-3 minutes. The question can simply ask the students to summarize the most important point of the lecture or to list what was the muddiest point of the subject. By reading these brief papers, the professor can gage the students’ comprehension and adjust the instruction.
- Letter Home
This is a variation of the minute paper that asks students to write a letter home explaining a concept in simple language. The process of translating the concept into simple language helps students process and connect the ideas to former knowledge. The letter home also allows informal assessment of student comprehension.
- Concept Mapping
Concept maps are visual means of showing relationships or connections between concepts. Ask students to represent the various components of a topic in a concept map that uses lines to connect how various terms relate. Concept mapping helps students to organize and identify how ideas relate in multiple ways. Students can compare their concept maps to identify the most helpful visualization of the information. Faculty can assess if students are drawing appropriate connections between the concepts.
- Cooperative Groups in Class
Have students work on problems, questions or issues in groups of three to five. This strategy works well when you give each group a slightly different problem and ask each group to become experts concerning their problem. Have the groups appoint a representative to report their findings, solutions and dilemmas concerning the problem. While the groups work, the teacher circulates to observe, ask further questions and keep groups on task.
- Note Check or Note Comparison
Occasionally, ask students to compare their notes with a partner. This exercise allows students to see how other students take notes; it also gives students the quick opportunity to reconsider what was important in the material. Sometimes students discover that they missed information that another student sensed was important. Ask students to share where they found discrepancies, concurrencies or interesting insights.
- If You Could Ask One Question
Have students write one question about the material on an index card that they would like further explored. Then have students work in groups to discuss the questions and formulate answers. This can generate great conversations about the material among the students. Collect the index cards to see if the students have similar questions that require further clarification. Some faculty members ask students to formulate questions for a test or quiz. This can help instructors to see if students are identifying the most important information.