In brief:

Active Learning is an approach to teaching and learning that:

  • places the needs, interests, attitudes, and experiences of the students at the center of instruction planning;
  • uses instructional strategies that are student-centered instead of instructor-centered;
  • engages students in activities that help develop higher-order thinking skills through the application of knowledge, analysis, and/or synthesis.

Active learning defined

Active learning is an instructional approach designed to facilitate student engagement and the development of higher-order thinking. Through planned activities and with Instructor guidance, students see their understanding of course content deepen through direct interaction with the content and collaboration with their peers1. Activities are planned, implemented, and facilitated by the instructor. 

Active learning in the classroom

Active learning works best when combined with lecturing through punctuated cycles of lecture and active learning activities, (eg: deliver a lecture on a key content area and then ask students to explore, investigate, research, hypothesize, reflect, problem solve and discover more, either individually, or in groups, as part of the overall learning process). Active learning can also be the main focus of an entire class period (eg: assign the reading or video content for review at home before class with a couple of guiding questions, then set students to work during class time to apply the knowledge/concepts in an activity).      

Watch this video to learn more about the benefits of active learning and how an active learning class differs from a more traditional class environment.  

Download video transcript

The next section will:

  • introduce you to some common and effective active learning techniques.