Active Learning: How to Implement It In Classroom in 2023

Published On: April 23rd, 2023·By ·

Active learning is an instructional approach that transforms learners from passive listeners to active participants in the learning process. 

The active learning approach incorporates learning methods that require students to connect with the course material by critically analyzing the content taught. Learners analyze the content through thinking, discussions, creation, and investigations.

The active learning strategy engages learners in practicing skills acquired, problem-solving, decision-making, and explanation of individual ideas through discussions and writing. 

Effective active learning demands timely feedback delivery from the tutor of peer learners. Research shows that active learning immensely improves student learning outcomes.  

The VARK learning model categorizes learners into four:- Visual learners, auditory learners, active learners and kinesthetic learners.

Active learners seek to deeply connect with their content, embracing activities such as discussions, roleplays, and experimentation that promote high order of thinking rather than surface learning. 

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is a learning approach where instructors engage students in guided engagement with the content. Learners engage in small or large learning activities that revolve around writing, reflecting, discussing, and problem-solving. 

Active learning involves the following strategies; 

  • Hands-on activities
  • Problem-solving activities
  • Reflection-based learning processes
  • Question generation 
  • Information gathering and synthesis
  • Assignment discussion 
  • Brief writing

The main goal of active learning is to encourage students to make connections between their prior knowledge and new information. It asks students to engage in high-order analysis of content through the articulation of knowledge rather than the passive recall and transmission of facts and ideas. 

Active learning strategies are based on constructivist theories of learning, which suggest that people learn by linking new ideas and experiences to the knowledge and experiences already acquired.

The significance of constructivist theories in active learning processes is that tutors can design learners’ daily learning activities around the existing mental framework to help them effectively assimilate new information. 

Benefits of Active Learning

With active learning, learners not only use their active listening skills but also actively participate in the learning process. It expects learners to engage, participate and collaborate with other learners in class, drawing more profound learning outcomes. 

Active learning also guides students to reflect on their grasp of new concepts by encouraging them to link prior knowledge to current knowledge. 

Here are some benefits of active learning;

  • Improves learner critical thinking– It shifts learner focus from unquestioning absorption of information to being actively engaged with sources of information and the various possible perspectives. Learners learn to challenge assumptions, recognize logic, and build genuine and robust arguments.
  • Improves learner collaboration- Active learning embraces collaboration's power in interrogating and solving problems. Through collaboration, learners develop a sense of community and belonging, improving their learning outcomes
  • Allows prompt feedback on learner progress- Since active learning involves hands-on activities, assessments, experimentation, and quizzes, instructors can promptly evaluate learner progress and give instant feedback and recommendations for improvement. 
  • It encourages risk-taking- Active learning establishes a low bar to participation by quiet students by encouraging them to share their thoughts. It pulls them out of their comfort zone by creating an environment that embraces risk-taking–building their confidence.

Active Learning Examples

Tutors use active learning strategies to empower, engage and stimulate their learners by placing them at the center of the learning process. 

Active learning comes in wide varieties. Let's explore strategies to help your learners talk more openly, think more critically, and engage more with the content.

  • Think-Pair-Share

This strategy is based on the social constructivist learning theory, which advocates collaborative learning

To use this strategy;

  • Guide learners into reflecting or thinking about a particular question or concept individually.
  • Let learners form pairs to discuss their ideas and answers. 
  • Facilitate a discussion in the more extensive classroom and let learners share the brainstormed answers with the more extensive classroom. 

The significance of this strategy is that it allows students to think individually and then collaboratively analyze and share their answers or explanations. Training learners to organize and integrate prior knowledge into new knowledge is essential. 

The method also promotes learner ownership of the learning process, increasing participation and retention. 

  • Case studies

The case-study learning strategy allows learners to apply the theoretical concepts learned to real-life situations. 

For instance, a teacher can pose a question to the class and allow learners to brainstorm how to approach the scenario presented. The complexity of the question may require extensive research, after which learners present their findings to the whole class either in small groups or in a paper.

The significance of this strategy to learners is that it actively engages learners in figuring out the principles learned and how they apply them in real-life scenarios. Learners develop analytical, problem-solving, collaborative, and qualitative and quantitative skills through this strategy.

Tutors can easily bridge the gap between theory and practice promoting learner motivation to participate and improving learning outcomes. 

  • Collaborative note taking

Instructors use collaborative note-taking to create an inclusive and collaborative learning environment. The strategy encourages learner discussions and increases engagement with the content, inspiring deeper and more meaningful learning. 

To implement this strategy in any discipline, you can select 2 students to take notes for every period. 

Tip: Pair more experienced note-takers with those with less experience. Or those more passionate about the topic than those less interested in it.

  • Let the note-takers post them on the document before the learning session
  • Have a consistent note-taking format to guide the learners in structuring their notes. You can have slides with interactive questions and phrases like “Activities of the day” and “Concepts to consider.”  
  • At the end of the period, engage learners on the features of note-taking that were excellently done and areas for improvement.

The value of collaborative note-taking to learners is that it promotes class discussion. It improves comprehension while providing an inclusive platform for learners with varied disciplinary backgrounds. 

Studies have found that learners engaged in collaborative note-taking performed better on retention measures. 

For the instructors, collaborative note-taking provided an access point for measuring learner content comprehension. 

  • Group work 

Group learning encourages learners to work in small groups to enhance learning and comprehension. In addition, group work is known to enhance retention of the learned content more than other instructional methods. 

This cooperative learning strategy is based on positive interdependence, where better individual performance produces better group performance.  

To successfully implement group learning;

  • Think about the physical arrangement of the learners.
  • Insist that all learners must be professional and respectful of other group members. 
  • Additionally, establish captivating instructional objectives and make the task challenging to arouse learner interest in the group task. 

The value of the group learning strategy is in its effectiveness in motivating students, promoting active learning, and fostering critical thinking and decision-making skills. 

  • Concept map

A concept map is a visualization of knowledge consisting of interconnected concepts. The concept maps active learning strategy is cross-disciplinary and enables students to break down concepts into sub-concepts, harmonize information, and acquire high-order thinking skills.

A concept map can provide a full narration, for instance, summarize a book, link historical occurrences, describe the process of running a business, or even the interconnectedness of the ecosystem.

To successfully use concept maps learning strategy:

  • Ensure that students understand the expectations of the process (the significance, the variables, their connections, the direction of the arrows, and the number of linkages possible for a single variable). 
  • Once the learning strategy is introduced, use it severally to ensure that learners get used to the content. 
  • Let learners discuss their concept maps with the class and have the learners critique fellow students’ ideas. 
  • Create a precise content measurement and grading strategies checking on variables, their linkages, the organization, ideas presented, learner communication, and teamwork. 

The significance of this strategy is in its ability to create independent learners who are critical thinkers and competent in their tasks. It also helps learners see the connections between ideas and concepts, enabling them to organize their findings logically and visually. 

To instructors, concept maps enable the assessment of the learners’ comprehension of abstract and complex concepts. 

  • Minute paper

The minute paper learning strategy is a formative measurement strategy where learners take one to two minutes to respond to content prompts. 

Learner responses, given either at the end of a section or the end of a lesson, provide an overall understanding of learner understanding. The instructor can then respond to learner responses in the next class session. 

To successfully implement the minute paper learning strategy:

  • Ask the right questions. E.g, What do you understand by (insert a concept learned)? Which was the most exciting concept of the day? What did you like about the group that presented today?
  • Give prompts at the right time- Minute papers can be used before, mid-lesson, and after a learning session. In the beginning, they may be used to measure retention and recall of the content taught in the previous lesson.

This way, it provides feedback on whether to start on new content or address any misconceptions the learners may have. 

During the lesson, minute papers enhance the transition from one section of the lesson to another. The prompts also break the monotony of the class proceedings stimulating learners for better focus. 

The value of this strategy is in its ability to enhance learner class attendance and attentiveness to class activities. In addition, it also improves learners’ writing skills and practical reflection on topics learned. 

To instructors, minute papers offer a way of feedback and learning assessment that is time efficient, brief, and interesting to learners. 

  • Inquiry Learning

Also known as exploratory learning, inquiry-based learning is a learner-based approach that allows learners to find the solution to a problem primarily through their research but under guidance from the teacher. 

It may be done through individual research or collaboratively pairs, or in small groups. 

A tutor triggers the learners' curiosity by presenting a problem, allowing them to find solutions, and presenting them in front of the class. In this approach, the teacher is involved in the following;

  • Starting the inquiry process
  • Encouraging learner dialog
  • Intervening to guide learners into understanding content material and to clear any confusion among them

The inquiry-based learning can be carried out in the following steps;

  1. Inquisition– guides students to develop questions about a content or topic they want to answer. Help them develop a problem statement that calls for an investigation.
  2. Research– let learners research, brainstorm, and search for information during class. This way, they can access the head researcher and the tutor.
  3. Presentation– learners present their findings. Learners can use google slides to create and make exciting presentations. 
  4. Reflection– let learners reflect on the presentations, evaluating what worked and what didn’t. Guide learners to reflect on what they learned and how they learned. Reflection enhances retention. 

Inquiry-based learning method provides differentiated instruction. Instructors guide learners into using different forms of data sources and presentations such as videos, text, audio, or virtual presentation, varying the stimuli for learners. By allowing them to learn from first-hand experiences, learners are engaged in improving; learning outcomes.  

To the learners, inquiry-based learning develops their critical thinking abilities since they are involved in researching, interpreting, evaluating, inferring, and explaining findings. 

How to Implement Active Learning In Your Classroom

Implementing active learning strategies successfully involves understanding how and what students should learn individually, in pairs, or in groups.

Brainstorming through it will also help you decide whether using the already incorporated active learning strategies or introducing a new approach is better.

Here are some steps for implementing active learning:

  • Assess the needs of your class.

Understanding the needs of your learners is essential in choosing a suitable active learning strategy. Consider the following:

    • Evidence & Data- Research a particular active learning strategy, how the strategy helps your learners realize their learning outcomes and the best subject approach instructional methods according to studies.
    • Pedagogical Challenges- What are the unique challenges within the specific classroom? What topics or concepts have you seen in your class?
  • Strategies- From the information collected from brainstorming and from your learners, consider the most suitable strategy to make your instructional process successful.
  • Design the activity

Identify the questions or topics you want your students to learn about and create learning objectives to be realized. 

Design the activity by considering the following;

  • Is the activity better carried out inside or outside the class
  • Create clear and specific guidelines for your learners to use.
  • Outline the order in which the learners should perform the activity and how they should engage with each other.
  • Engage learners in establishing and creating ground rules for engagement.
  • Guide learners into sharing roles and responsibilities for any group work or discussions, or provide feedback after the presentation, focusing on correcting while motivating the learners.
  • Provide guidelines for continuing the in-class activity to extend the learning process.
  • Have a rubric for assessing learner efforts and communicate how the extension of the in-class activity will be carried out, groupings, timelines, and technology to use. 
  • Evaluate the activity.

Evaluating a learning strategy helps determine its effectiveness in aiding learner understanding. 

An effective active learning strategy helps learners realize the learning objectives formatively and summatively.

To evaluate your chosen active learning strategy, consider the following:

  • How effective was the strategy in communicating the complex concepts and explanations to your learners based on their results.
  • Compare the before and after solutions to quizzes, assignments, and tests.
  • Seek feedback from students on what they feel about the learning activities. This can give you insights into the success of the learning strategy. 

Active Learning Tips for Teachers

For effective active learning, consider the following when designing active learning tasks:

  • The tasks should help your students meet their learning objectives.
  • Active learning tasks should create a low bar for student participation.
  • Active learning tasks should provide students with feedback on their learning.

Here are active learning tips for educators:

Help your students meet their learning goals

One of the significant benefits of active learning is that it keeps learners engaged. Learners connect with content by applying learning activities that promote concept acquisition, skill, and knowledge. 

For instance, you can enhance their retention and improve their experiences by giving students an exercise to assess their prior knowledge. Interactive questioning is a suitable strategy to use.

These memorable learning activities improve retention as learners acquire a deeper understanding.   

Your chosen active learning strategies should improve their learning objectives by engaging them in writing, discussion, decision-making, problem-solving, synthesis, and understanding assessment. 

They help realize learner goals by increasing their motivation to learn, improving their transfer of new information, and minimizing their chances of course failure. 

Encourage student participation

Active learning methods promote learner participation in learning by allowing them to think, discuss, investigate, and present findings. 

As a tutor, you could encourage learner participation by designing activities requiring them to ask questions, solve problems, explain ideas, and collaborate with their classmates. 

For instance, you could create group activities where every member has specific roles and responsibilities to ensure participation. 

This is significant because student participation improves learning outcomes. 

Seek Feedback and Reflection

Feedback and reflection are critical in not only measuring learning outcomes but also in creating avenues for improvement. 

Feedback on active learning activities can be realized from various sources. For instance, instructors can collect feedback from learners on a large scale and then compare this information with data from experts to identify gaps in student understanding. 

Instructors can pass rubric sheets to learners before a peer presentation to assess their classmates' understanding of the content. 

Feedback is essential because it provides students with information on their grasp of knowledge, guiding them toward a desired learning outcome.

Also, feedback can be used as a source of motivation by commending learners on their learning progress. 

How to Get Started with Active Learning?

For effective active learning, teachers can take the following measures to ensure that they are not stressed and that their class is prepared for active learning.

  • Start small, start early, and start with activities that pose a low risk for instructors and students- Starting with simple, relatable activities allows learners to transition slowly into the complex active learning strategies ensuring that you keep their interest in these instructional processes. 
  • As you begin incorporating these practices, explaining to your students why you’re doing so is a good idea- Learners cooperate better when they own the learning process. They will be more motivated when you involve them in decision-making and inform them of the significance of changing the instructional approach.
  • Transparent communication builds a supportive classroom environment but can also help them develop their metacognitive skills (and thus their ability to become independent learners).

Transparency is a catalyst for participation and collaboration in a learning process. It transforms the learning experience, promoting peer interaction and communication between the teacher and the learner. 

  • As you consider other active learning techniques, use the “backward design” approach: begin by identifying your learning goals- Successful active learning instruction focuses on the desired outcomes. The backward design helps instructors focus on the learning process rather than their own instructional process.

Your learners will respond positively to active learning activities that are meaningful and challenging enough for their level, with clearly defined goals and assessment strategies.

Teachers should therefore embrace active learning to successfully engage their learners in the learning process, encourage participation, and promote retention, all of which result in improved learner outcomes. 

We encourage you to continually seek professional development and, grow your understanding of active learning and know how to engage your learners to get helpful feedback actively. 


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