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Active Learning Techniques

Barkley, Major, and Cross (2014) have written a comprehensive handbook detailing these techniques which is a very helpful resource. These techniques and many others have been originated by researchers from different disciplines whose studies on teaching and learning have culminated in a rich body of work. It provides clear and concise explanations and examples of a broad range of techniques along with primary resources for more information concerning original research and work on these techniques and many more. 

Here are a few ideas for active learning techniques you may wish to consider. We've created diagrams as a guide to help illustrate what they may look like in class.

Below is a list of more active learning techniques with a brief a description with some of the features of each. Each technique name is linked to a resource where you can learn more about the technique. 

Active Learning Technique Level of Thinking/ Skill Focus Description Phase(s) of Instruction Suitable for Large Classes Suitable in traditional Classrooms Little to no Preparation required
Think-Pair-Share any Students take time on their own to consider a question then with a partner and, optionally, after with the entire class. all
Note-taking Pairs Understand Students take turns sharing notes with a partner at intervals in a lecture Presentation
Buzz Groups any

Students brainstorm or discuss a question or problem in small groups.

all
Fish Bowl any

A group of volunteer students have a debate, do a roleplay or perform a specific task in front of the class. The rest of the class watches and discusses at the end.

all
Think-Aloud Pair Problem Solving Apply
Problem-soving

In pairs, students take turns listening while the other explains their solution and reasoning to a given problem.

Practice
Application
Jigsaw Remember
Understand
Apply
Analyze

Students master content in small  “expert” groups then reform into new groups (with one person from a different expert group) and teach each other what they learned in their previous groups.

Presentation
     
Advance Organizers Understand
Note-taking

Instructors provide a template for taking lecture/reading notes to help them organize their notes and help them focus on big ideas and connections between them.

Presentation
Guided Notes Understand
Note-taking
Instructors provide a set of partially-completed notes that students complete while listening to help them focus on big ideas. Presentation
Translate That Understand

Instructors pause at regular intervals in a lecture and ask a student to explain the previous segment in “plain English” to their classmates.

Presentation
Analytic teams Analyze

Students are put into groups, and each member is assigned a role. Each role is a component of a complete analysis (i.e. Arguments for, arguments against, examples, opinions, etc.)

Presentation
Practice
 
Sketch Note Understand Students create a visual representation of lecture content. Presentation
Practice
Lecture Wrappers Understand
Self-regulated learning

At the end of a lecture, students identify the 3 most important points/big ideas and compare it to the instructor’s list.

Presentation
Peer Instruction Understand
Apply

Students use response system (i.e. clickers) to answer questions. After voting, they explain their answer to a partner then vote again. Typically, the second round of voting sees better results as students learn from their peers.

Presentation
Practice
 
Sequence chains Understand

Students fill in an instructor-generated graphic organizer based on reading and/or lecture that shows the relationship between ideas.

Presentation
Practice
 
Fact or Opinion Critical thinking

Students identify what is fact and what is opinion from a reading or lecture.

Presentation
Practice
 
IRAs Understand
Apply
Critical thinking

In response to a lecture or reading, students: explain insights they’ve gained, identify an additional resource that has similar themes, and write how the reading applies to their own personal experience.

Presentation
Practice
Defining Features Matrix Understand

Students classify concepts, ideas & theories based on specific criteria.

Presentation
Practice
Analytic Memo Analyze
Problem-solving

Students write a 1-2 page analysis of a problem/issue to a stakeholder.

Application
Group Grid Understand

Students sort course concepts into categories into an instructor-generated grid.

Presentation    
Three-Minute Message Evaluate
Critical thinking

Students present a concise three-minute argument with supporting evidence on a designated course topic

Practice
Application
Directed Paraphrase Understand

Students craft a concise explanation of a difficult course concept in their own words for a specific audience

Practice
Invented Dialogues Analyze
Critical thinking

Students write dialogues between different characters (real or fictionalized depending on your topic) on controversial theories and issues.

Application
Documented Problem solving Problem-solving
Self-regulated learning

Students keep track of the steps they take as they solve a problem.

Practice
Application
Structured Problem Solving Apply
Analyze
Problem-solving
Students work in teams to use a specific process to solve a complex problem. Practice
Application
   
Case Study Apply
Analyze
Evaluate

Students analyze an authentic scenario and apply course ideas to provide a solution.

Application    
Contemporary Issues Journal Apply
Analyze
Critical thinking

Students keep a journal where they connect course information to current news or their own lives.

Practice
Application
 
Send-a-problem Apply
Analyze
Evaluate
Students pass around envelopes with a problem or scenario written on the front. Groups discuss and put their solution into the envelope and pass it to the next group. This group provides their own solution without looking at the previous group’s answer. Once a problem is in the third or fourth round, each group removes the solutions and evaluates each and decides which is best and why. Practice
Application
   
Post-It Parade Understand
Apply
Evaluate

Students put the answer to a question on a post-it note then stick it to a designated surface where it can be organized in a variety of ways.

all
Punctuated Lectures Self-regulated learning

The instructor pauses throughout the lecture and students reflect on what they were doing and why.

Presentation
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