What is active learning?
At its core, active learning is an approach which emphasizes the active engagement of students in the learning process. As explained by Conrad and Donaldson (2011:1): “Engaged learning is not a new instructional approach. It has been written about under various terms such as active learning, social cognition, constructivism, and problem-based learning, all of which emphasize student-focused learning within an instructor-facilitated environment.”
This approach focuses on the activities and ways students engage with the material and how they can make it relevant to their own circumstances and it will de-emphasize the role of one-way content transmission (such as a long lecture), and encourage peer and collaborative work along with activities.
How do we apply this in a flipped model?
As we’ve looked at in some of the previous posts, this approach involves using face-to-face time in the classroom on problem solving, collaborative learning, working through case studies or experiments, or developing projects. There are a wide range of possible activities you can introduce into your classes. Many of the comments in the previous two modules asked about the feasibility of flipped models for large classes of several hundred students. In many disciplines, this is already common practice in tutorials, workshops, and practical or lab-based sessions (which are smaller in student numbers and set up for interaction already), but it can also be done during large theatre-style lecture settings for large classes. The key point is to use the class time is used to practice and apply the knowledge the students learned in their pre-work videos or readings.
This video, from the University of Michigan, looks at some quick and easy strategies for checking student knowledge and engaging them in the learning process using classroom assessment tasks, which can be applied in lectures as well as small-group teaching.
Designing active learning activities in the classroom
There are a huge range of potential activities you could try, many of which do not require significant extra time to prepare. Check out some of the 29 suggestions in this resource from Chemistry at California State University. Some of them are as easy as asking students to brainstorm a response to a question you pose with their neighbour, and then voting with hands up.
Technologies for active learning
Students often have devices with them in class. You can take advantage of phones, laptops, and tablets to use audience response and polling tools to facilitate active learning. Common options include:
- PollEverywhere (students can text-in their responses from their mobile phones)
- Socrative (a quiz app for all devices)
- Padlet (an interactive whiteboard, which we used in module 1 for introductions)
There are also several Wattle (Moodle) tools which can be used through your course site. Here are a few or you can see a complete list on our website:
- Choice (simple polling tool for student responses)
- OU Wiki (students can work collaboratively on a document or brainstorm ideas)
- Forum (great for discussion or responding to questions or resources)
- Database (students can collaboratively share resources and comment on them)
- Glossary (students can collaboratively generate shared definitions of key terms)
- Group selection (organise students into groups for projects or team-based activities)
- Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction, Updated Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey‐Bass.
- Prince, M (2004). “Does active learning work? A review of the research.” Journal of Engineering Education 93(3), 223-231. Available: http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Prince_AL.pdf
- Danker, Brenda. (2015) “Using flipped classroom approach to explore deep learning in large classrooms.” The IAFOR Journal of Education. 3(1), 171-186. Available: http://iafor.org/archives/journals/education/journal-of-education-v3-i1/V3I1_Danker.pdf
Share your ideas
- In the list of activities, are there ones that would work well for your courses?
- What technologies or strategies would you use to apply them?
- What are some of the challenges you foresee when trying these strategies?
- How might you deal with students who don’t have access to devices?