Active learning can be integrated into a variety of contexts and help overcome teaching and learning barriers.
On this page:
Many of the concerns listed on this webpage use technology to address problems that may arise when building in active learning. Here you will also find additional resources to help facilitate teaching using technology integrations.
Concern: There is no time to add more to an already packed lecture.
Depending on the delivery mode, engage with students by walking around the room or using breakout rooms.
Plan activities that students perceive as relevant and valuable. Be explicit about these learning outcomes and why they are important.
Concern: Students are distracted and off-task.
Adopt facilitation strategies where the instructor engages with students while also working to discourage distractions. Instructors should not be hesitant to refocus students on their work.
Concern: Students are unprepared for class.
Make your expectations clear. Explain to students what it means to be prepared and what they should be able to do when they arrive to class. When giving an active learning assignment, students need to know what to look for, how to identify the important parts and understand why it matters.
Hold students accountable. A “ticket to enter” strategy asks students to complete a task as part of their pre-class work. Other strategies include: a low-stakes quiz, writing three questions based off the reading or posting to the class discussion forum. The instructor can use this information to adjust class time as needed to address potential misconceptions.
Have a conversation. Identify who is not prepared and see if this is a trend. Talk to the student or arrange a future meeting. Once students realize they are on an instructor's radar, they often resolve their unpreparedness.
Proceed as planned by reviewing material students struggled with and move forward with in-class activities. Do not give a quick lecture to reiterate the pre-class work. Unprepared students will learn that class time will not be derailed by their lack of preparation.
Rethink participation grades. Make the completion of pre-class work a significant part of participation and their final grade. This allows instructors more flexibility in determining what counts as “participation” and encourages student preparedness.
Concern: Sorting many students into groups creates conflicts.
If students need to meet outside of class, utilize a tool such as Doodle to create groups based on availability. Or use a simple Google Forms survey to collect metrics that will help determine how students are grouped.
Concern: Supervising student work can be overwhelming.
Have students work in a digital environment (e.g., Google Drive or UB Box) and then send a link to their group folder. The instructor or TA can decide how much oversight they would like to provide. This also creates a time and date-stamped paper trail of the work each student contributes.
Concern: No time to grade additional work.
UB Learns has automatic grading built into its quizzes. Peer grading can also be useful, but students will need direction on how to properly critique and give feedback.
Use a rubric. Rubrics answer many common student questions and clearly communicate your expectations for the assignment.
Concern: Many students need help, and I am the only instructor.
Encourage students to ask their peers before asking the instructor. Use message boards in UB Learns, or on other class channels such as Twitter, Facebook or Padlet where students can post questions, and everyone can respond.
Educational technology can help overcome difficulties of implementing active learning due to:
Physical barriers in the classroom
Ratio of students to faculty
Complexity of active learning tasks
If used appropriately, educational technology can support both teaching and learning by expanding experiences and learning materials, supporting learning outside the classroom and potentially increasing student engagement and motivation.
Research article that explores several interrelated strategies used by instructors to reduce resistance to active learning.
Finelli, C. J., Nguyen, K., DeMonbrun, M., Borrego, M., Prince, M., Husman, J., ... & Waters, C. K. (2018). Reducing student resistance to active learning: strategies for instructors. Journal of College Science Teaching, 47(5), 80-91.