Active learning does not mean that lectures should be removed entirely.
Lectures are an efficient way of delivering information, especially information that needs to be memorized or understood. Active engagement activities can exist both within lectures and alongside them.
The following examples are organized by activities that can be added to your lecture or that can replace parts of your lecture.
Active learning activities can break up a long lecture into smaller parts, helping students to refocus.
Active participation in activities improves student learning and retention compared to lectures. More complex activities encourage students to engage on a deeper level with the material. This is particularly useful for challenging concepts or skills that students tend to struggle with on their own. These activities give students class time to practice what they are learning so that they can receive immediate feedback. Instructors are encouraged to move some direct instruction to a non-sequential format (e.g., online video) to allow class time for engagement of these activities.
For concept mapping to be done well it often requires practice and training for students. This is a more difficult activity to implement but works well for content that can be organized in a two-dimensional space.
Commonly referred to as PBL and CBL, students learning in a course that use these techniques develop a variety of higher order skills as they are asked to use analytical thinking and reflective judgement by working with complex, real-life scenarios. Instructors use PBL and CBL to teach students how to solve salient problems using course content.
PBL and CBL have a long history of effective use in academia in areas such as architecture, medicine, and engineering. For example, an engineering instructor might have students design and then build a model of a bridge. This style of learning has many benefits, not least of which is to teach students to work in a manner that is reflective of the modern workplace (Lathram, 2016).
Problem- and Project-Based Learning (PBL)
Similar to case-based learning, this learning model encourages them to direct their own learning by solving problems of academic significance and move beyond the controlled classroom environment. Rather than being the source of content expertise, faculty are facilitators of knowledge and motivators of action.
PBL organizes learning around projects of complex tasks precipitated by an in-depth question or problem. Generally, the scope of PBL is larger and broader than a traditional assignment.
Case-Based Learning (CBL)
Case-based learning presents students with situations from the larger world that require students to apply their knowledge to reach a conclusion about an open-ended situation.
To use CBL, provide students with a case, asking them to decide what they know that is relevant to the case, what other information they may need, and what impact their decisions may have, considering the broader implications of their decisions.
Give groups of three to five students time to consider responses, circulating to ask questions and providing help as needed. Provide opportunities for groups to share responses; the greatest value from case-based learning comes from the complexity and variety of answers that may be generated.
PBL and CBL Resources