Evidence that Active Learning Works

What’s The Buzz On Active Learning? 8 Studies Showing Active Learning Works in Different Disciplines.

What really helps students learn?

Over the last several years, pedagogical research into the effectiveness of active and collaborative learning in the undergraduate classroom has demonstrated that across all disciplines active learning, relative to traditional lecture format classes, increase student test scores, comprehension, and/or self-efficacy relative to traditional lecture format classes.

“What I hear, I forget; What I see, I remember; What I do, I understand.”

– Old Chinese proverb, sometimes attributed to Confucius

Please select each circle below to reveal 8 studies that show how active learning works in each discipline

“At this point it is unethical to teach any other way.”

“Active problem-solving confers a deeper understanding of science than does a standard lecture ... We find up to 20% better grades over usual methods… Evidence has been accumulating for decades that students who actively engage with course material will end up retaining it for much longer than they would have otherwise, and they will be better able to apply their knowledge broadly.”

Passing grades: 55% traditional classes, 85% with active learning.

For both the ARTS AND SCIENCE opens in new window disciplines… “it was found that 55% of those students who engaged in traditional learning achieved a passing grade when post-tested, while a corresponding 85% of active learners received a passing grade when post-tested.”

Mello, David and Less, Colleen A., "Effectiveness of active learning in the arts and sciences" (2013). Humanities Department Faculty Publications & Research. Paper 45.

Failure rates are over 50% higher in non-active classrooms.

“The studies analyzed here document that active learning leads to increases in examination performance that would raise average grades by a half a letter, and that failure rates under traditional lecturing increase by 55% over the rates observed under active learning. The analysis supports theory claiming that calls to in- crease the number of students receiving SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS (STEM) degrees could be answered, at least in part, by abandoning traditional lecturing in favor of active learning.”

Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(23), 8410-8415.

Active-research increased confidence 83% and career interest 68%.

“Russell et al. (2007) surveyed approximately 4500 [SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS (STEM)] students who had participated in the NSF programs [incorporating undergraduate research]. They found that 68% of the respondents reported an increase in interest in a STEM career, and 83% reported an increase in confidence in their research skills.”

Russell, S. H., Hancock, M. P., and McCullough, J. (2007). “Benefits of undergraduate research experiences.” Science, 316, 548–549.

Over 20% more students earned a C or higher when learning cooperatively.

“An instructor taught an introductory COMPUTER SCIENCE course three times, once with the students working individually and twice using group work, with common examinations in the first two classes. In the first class, only 36% of the students earned grades of C or better, while in the classes taught cooperatively, 58% and 65% of the students did so.”

Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (1996). Navigating the bumpy road to student-centered instruction. College teaching, 44(2), 43-47.

6000 students tested; active engagement outperforms.

“Hake examined pre- and post-test data for over 6,000 students in introductory PHYSICS courses and found significantly improved performance for students in classes with substantial use of interactive-engagement methods.”

Prince, M. (2004). “Does active learning work? A review of the research.” Journal of Engineering Education, Washington, 93, 223-232.

Engaged students outperform passive students by two standard deviations.

Hestene’s study found that “students in the interactive-engagement [PHYSICS] courses outperformed students in the traditional courses by 2 SDs. Similarly, students in the interactive-engagement courses outperformed students in the traditional courses on the mechanics assessment, a measure of problem-solving ability. This certainly looks like evidence that active learning works!”

Michael, J. (2006). “Where's the evidence that active learning works?” Advances in physiology education, 30(4), 159-167.

Students master concepts working in teams.

“In the field of COMPUTER-AIDED INSTRUCTION, there is a wealth of data showing that two or more students working together at the computer learn more than students working alone and peer instruction…has been show to increate student mastery of conceptual reasoning and quantitative problem solving.”

Michael, J. (2006). “Where's the evidence that active learning works?” Advances in physiology education, 30(4), 159-167.