Active Learning

What is active learning?

Active learning refers to the process by which students engage in meaningful activities such as discussing, reading, writing, and problem-solving to learn instead of passively listening to an instructor. Active learning forces students to think about what they are engaged in through analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of course content. When students engage in active learning, they practice and think about those things they are doing (Bonwell & Eison, 1991). Core elements of active learning include student activity and engagement in the learning process (Prince, 2004).

Why should instructors use active learning?

  • Increases content knowledge
  • Improves critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • Promotes positive attitudes towards learning
  • Increases enthusiasm for learning
  • Encourages creative thinking
  • Improves communication and interpersonal skills
  • Improves understanding and attitudes about information literacy
  • Stimulates interest and engagement
  • Improves memory retrieval

What are some active learning activities?

  • Class debates
  • Peer-to-peer discussions
  • Group problem solving
  • Think-pair-share
  • Peer teaching
  • Teaching a topic
  • Reflective writing
  • Keeping a journal
  • Electronic portfolios
  • Plan and develop a solution
  • Class discussions
  • Questioning sessions
  • Case studies
  • Simulations
  • Role playing
  • Collaborative learning
  • Cooperative learning
  • Problem-based learning
  • FLIP activities

What are FLIP activities?

FLIP means “focus on your learners by involving them in the process” during the initial 5-minutes of class (Honeycutt, 2016). Focus activities help students engage and make meaning out of their pre-class homework or assignments. Unlike icebreakers, focus activities are connected to course content and learning outcomes. Although FLIP activities are designed for the initial 5-minutes of class, these activities can be used throughout the entire class to foster active learning experiences.

What are benefits of FLIP activities?

  • Sparks engagement and involvement from the beginning of class
  • Assesses student learning
  • Enhances motivation by encouraging students to prepare for class
  • Connects content from previous class
  • Focuses students’ attention on course content

What are some FLIP activities?

  • Focus with a quote
  • Focus with a question
  • Focus with a quiz
  • Focus with a problem
  • Focus with a story
  • Focus with a video
  • Focus with a gallery walk
  • Focus with a screen shot
  • Focus with a picture
  • Focus with social media
  • Focus with a debate
  • Focus with reflection
  • Focus with a writing prompt
  • Focus with a vote
  • Focus with learning outcomes
  • Focus with an outline

References and other sources

Anderson, W. L., Mitchell, S. M., & Osgood, M. P. (2005). Comparison of student performance in cooperative learning and traditional lecture‐based biochemistry classes. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 33(6), 387-393. doi:10.1002/bmb.2005.49403306387

Bates, T., & Poole, G. (2003). Effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for success. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.

Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. Washington, DC: School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University.

Cambridge, B. L., Kahn, S., Tompkins, D. P., & Yancey, K. B. (Eds.). (2005). Electronic portfolios: Emerging practices in student, faculty, and institutional learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1991). Applying the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Honeycutt, B. (2016). FLIP the first 5 minutes of class: 50 focusing activities to engage your students and create more time for learning. FLIP It Consulting and barbihoneycutt.com, Raleigh, NC.

Kember, D., & Leung, D. Y. P. (2005). The influence of active learning experiences on the development of graduate capabilities. Studies in Higher Education, 30(2), 155-170. doi:10.1080/03075070500043127

Meyers, C., & Jones, T. B. (1993). Promoting active learning: Strategies for the college classroom (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Michael, J. (2006). Where's the evidence that active learning works? Advances in Physiology Education, 30(4), 159.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231. doi:10.1002/j.2168-9830.2004.tb00809.x

Kassens-Noor, E. (2012). Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets. Active Learning in Higher Education, 13(1), 9-21. doi:10.1177/1469787411429190

Helpful Article

10 Active Learning Exercises to Engage Students and Stimulate Learning