Teaching Tip: Seven active learning strategies

3/7/2007 8:00:00 AM

Topic: Seven Active Learning Strategies

Overview: All research on people, and on their brains, shows we learn by doing. Learning is a constructing process. Here are [some of] the choices available in the literature on teaching. The problem is selecting the type of activity to match the purpose the teacher has in mind.

Seven Examples:

  1. Construction Spiral Ask a sequence of questions, beginning at a reflex level, in a three-step learning cycle used to construct understandings and concepts.
    • individual writing for 3-5 minutes,
    • small group sharing in trios or pairs, and
    • whole class, non-evaluative compilation.
  2. Round Each person in turn expresses their point of view on a given topic, or passes, while others listen. Used to elicit a range of viewpoints and build a sense of safe participation.
  3. Brainstorm Solicit, and compile for all to see, alternative possibilities without judgments. Used to generate ideas, encourage creativity, involve the whole group, and demonstrate that people working together can create more than the individual alone.
  4. Writing in Class Focus questions, in-class journals, lecture or reading summaries and in-class essays can improve the learning of the subject matter and, with clear objectives and feedback, improve writing skills, too.
  5. Simulations and Games By creating circumstances that are momentarily real, learners can practice coping with stressful, unfamiliar or complex situations. Simulations and games, with specific guiding principles, rules, and structured relationships, can last several hours or even days.
  6. Peer Teaching By explaining conceptual relationships to others, [students] define their own understanding.
    • Question Pairs Learners prepare for class by reading an assignment and generating questions focused on the major points or issues raised. At the next class meeting pairs are randomly assigned. Partners alternately ask questions of each other and provide corrective feedback as necessary.
    • Learning Cells Each learner reads different selections and then teaches the essence of the material to his or her randomly assigned partner.
  7. Examinations Scheduling an exam stimulates learners to study. Completion, true false, and multiple choice force memorization of facts and statements. Essay examinations force re-reading and attaining an overall general concept of the material. It is a rather obvious way to involve learners in doing something and getting them to think about what they are doing.

Source: A Brief Summary of the Best Practices in Teaching, compiled by Tom Drummond.


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