Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Spalding University Library and Academic Commons Logo

Teaching Excellence

This guide provides active learning and teaching strategies.

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is a process whereby students engage in activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content.  Active learning requires students to do meaningful activities and think about what they are doing. While this definition could include traditional activities such as homework, in practice it refers to activities introduced into the classroom. The core elements of active learning are student activity and engagement in the learning process. Active learning is often contrasted to the traditional lecture where students passively receive information. 

With permission: Annie Nickum, University of North Dakota Libraries 

Active Learning Research

Does Active Learning Work?  A Review of the Research (Prince, 2004)  This study examines the evidence for the effectiveness of active learning.  It provides a definition of active learning and explores the different types of active learning most frequently discussed in engineering education literature.  Those outside of engineering will likewise find this source helpful in providing concise definitions, literature review, and valuable questions that will promote instructor’s understanding of active learning.

Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics (2013) 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.

Northwest Iowa Community College: What is Active Learning?

TEDxColumbiaSC: Creative and active teaching and learning: Dr. John Zubizarreta

Face-to-face Classroom: Active Learning Strategies

Active Learning Continuum This handout graphically represents the relative complexity of different active learning techniques. It also provides brief descriptions for each of the activities on the continuum.

Active Learning Strategies for Face-to-Face Courses IDEA Paper by Barbara J. Millis explores Active Learning and describes six concrete examples of active learning approaches.

ABLConnect ABLConnect is an online database of active learning efforts in post-secondary classrooms. It was founded in early 2012 by Dustin Tingley, Professor of Government at Harvard University. Started through the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), ABLConnect is now run in collaboration with Harvard’s Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.

Classroom Activities for Active Learning (Center for Faculty Excellence, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009)  Actively engaging students motivates deeper thinking about course content, brings additional energy to a classroom, and helps an instructor pin point problem areas.  This article provides summaries of current practices and gives practical suggestions for implementing active learning in a variety of disciplines.  Topics covered include: Questioning techniques, small groups, whole class involvement, and reading & writing exercises.

Online: Active Learning Strategies

Strategies to Incorporate Active Learning into Online Teaching Instructors/designers must continue to design activities that support learning objectives, but structure them to work online, outside of the traditional classroom environment where active learning techniques are heavily dependent upon face-to-face interaction (e.g., discussion, group work, role-play).

University of Florida's Active Learning in Online Courses Active learning is an activity in a course that goes beyond passively listening to a lecture or a video.  It is a learning technique that challenges students to engage through mental contributions, hands-on activities, or the process of investigation, discovery and interpretation.