Organizing a Lesson with Active Learning
In order to make the most of active learning, you will ideally be teaching in a classroom that has been designed and optimized for this purpose. However, you can still use active learning techniques in a traditional classroom or auditorium by trying some of the more flexible active learning techniques such as think-pair-share and buzz groups. Strategies such as these can be used very easily in virtually any space. Refer to the Active Learning Techniques page for a list of active learning techniques you can use in your classroom.
Research suggests that classes should be structured so that they are interspersed with activities instead of relying on the lecture alone. These activities should be varied and interactive. They should align with learning outcomes and assessments, and they must be student-centered, meaning they require effortful work by students in class-leading to higher-order thinking. How often and for how long will depend on the kinds of activities you use and your learning outcomes. There is no “right way” to do active learning; every class will look different, but below are some examples of how a class incorporating active learning could be structured.
For more information on planning lessons, refer to the Instructional Planning Module
Using active learning does not necessarily require you to completely change the way you teach. If you have found success in lecturing, there are several techniques that you can use to enhance your lecture that will not require too much planning, but will improve student engagement and promote learning.
One of the easiest ways to start using active learning is to intersperse small, meaningful activities into your lectures to make your lecture more interactive.
In the diagrams below, the timelines show that the main pedagogical approach is lecturing, but specific active learning strategies have been interspersed throughout the lecture to help students consolidate content and increase engagement. These are only some examples of the way you can make your lectures more active, dynamic, and engaging.
Active Learning Lessons
Some pedagogical approaches, such as the flipped learning approach, don’t require as much lecturing. In this approach, the students spend more class time working through tasks while the instructor circulates and provides clarification when necessary. The students prepare for class in advance by reading or watching videos and come to class ready to consolidate and apply what they learned. Many instructors note the challenge in ensuring students prepare before class to be able to participate actively. For more information and strategies on getting student to prepare adequately, see Getting your Students to Read.
An alternative to the flipped approach would be a model where instructors alternate classes with lecture and an active learning lesson that where students practice and apply content from the previous lecture.
The examples below provide examples of what a lesson with less lecturing might look like.