Students are learning actively when they are constructing their own meaning-making rather than receiving knowledge being dispensed by another. Active learning requires that students take responsibility for their learning. They must be the ones to participate, contribute, reflect, make connections, assess, and apply. Overall, active learning means student-centredness, where students’ capabilities, involvement, and critical engagement are at the heart of learning.
Active learning exists on a continuum.
At the simplest level, active learning is the inclusion of student activity into a traditional lecture (for example, pausing and having students clarify notes with partners two to three times per lecture). At the more advanced level, active learning involves designing learning activities that facilitate deep understanding of the important ideas to be learned. To do so, activities must be designed around the learning outcomes and promote thoughtful engagement on the part of the student (i.e. collaborative vs. individual work that gets students doing the work of the discipline – team-based activities, problem-based learning, inquiry learning ).
The following Active Learning Strategies Handout provides a wide range of examples and ideas for supporting students’ active learning in various contexts. The resource can be used in generating ideas for supporting active learning through teaching strategies. Its important to note however that the strategies suggested in the document are only a starting point – they can be borrowed as described or altered creatively to fit different teaching and learning contexts. The most critical factor in selecting a strategy is ensuring that it directly supports the intended learning outcomes.