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At its core, active learning promotes student engagement in the learning process.


Active Learning at UofL

Active learning increases many student success outcomes, including performance, enthusiasm and cognitive engagement.

What Is Active Learning?

Active learning is anything course-related that all students in a class section are called upon to do other than simply watching, listening, and taking notes. (Felder and Brent, 2009, "Active Learning: An Introduction").

Evidence for Active Learning

Evidence of active learning’s efficacy is abundant, with the number of individual studies easily in the 1000s.

Reviews of active learning literature attempt to synthesize and articulate these results, and have generally found compelling evidence that increased learning gains and academic success are associated with the use active of learning.

Active Learning is anything course-related that all students in a class section

Instructional Approaches that Characterize Active Learning

Flipping the Classroom

As long as students are doing and participating in the learning, active learning is happening!

The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures typically are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.

Team-based Learning

Team-based learning (TBL) is a structured form of small-group learning that emphasizes student preparation out of class and application of knowledge in class. Students are organized strategically into diverse teams, typically of 5-7 students, that work together throughout the class.

POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning)

In a POGIL classroom, students work in learning teams on guided inquiry exercises. The Process-Oriented component of POGIL is designed to have each instructor think about what process skills are important to develop for his or her students. The Guided Inquiry component of POGIL explicitly enhances the analytical and critical thinking skills of the students through the design of the activities (the learning cycle) and the use of groups requiring students to explain their reasoning.

Problem-based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem. The problem motivates the student and drives the learning.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups in which students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning. It may be contrasted with competitive (students work against each other to achieve an academic goal such as a grade of “A” that only one or a few students can attain) and individualistic (students work by themselves to accomplish learning goals unrelated to those of the other students) learning.

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning is based on the learner as the primary focus of instruction, where interaction and doing are of primary importance. It can occur with pairs of peers or larger groups, where the groups develop solutions to real-world problems.

Active Learning is anything course-related that all students in a class section

Getting Started with Active Learning

At its core, active learning promotes student activity and engagement in the learning process. Here are four popular and time-effective active learning activities you can use with your students.

Think-Pair-Share (TPS)

This is a collaborative learning strategy in which students work together to solve a problem or answer a question. This simple activity can relieve the anxiety and mental block of being called on to answer a question in class. First, ask your students a meaningful open-ended question or pose a problem, then follow these steps:

  1. THINK: Give your students a few minutes to ponder the question independently.
  2. PAIR: Invite your students to discuss their answer with a nearby peer.
  3. SHARE: Ask pairs to summarize and share their answers with the class.

One-Minute Papers

You can use this strategy at the end of class or during any topic discussion to support and reinforce student learning and engagement with class content. Simply ask your students to write a short paper in response to the following questions:

  1. What are the two central ideas or concepts you learned during this session?
  2. What question(s) remain uppermost in your mind?
  3. Is there anything you did not understand?

You can organize and sort your students’ short responses to help you target ideas or concepts where students might need additional help.

Four Corners

You can use this high-energy activity to introduce a new topic.

  1. Write four questions on whiteboards or flip charts in each corner of the room.
  2. Divide your students into four groups and send each group to a different corner.
  3. Invite every student to write an answer to the question and discuss their responses with each other.
  4. After a few minutes, ask the groups to move to the next question, read what is already there, and add any new responses they can think of.
  5. Continue until all corners have been visited then convene a full-class discussion to consider the group’s collective answers.

Clarification Pauses

This technique fosters "active listening" skill development. After you state an important point or define a key concept, stop, and have the students get in groups of two. Have the pairs discuss and rework notes. Circulate around the room during these pauses to observe discussions and answer questions. Pausing to let material sink in has been shown to significantly increase learning when compared to lectures without the pauses.

Active Learning is anything course-related that all students in a class section


How much do you know about active learning? Do you feel comfortable talking about it to your colleagues? Here are some common questions and answers.

Active Learning Opportunities at the TILL

Start experimenting with active learning when you get involved in programs and events at the TILL. Learn more about each opportunity below.

Active Learning is anything course-related that all students in a class section


Crouch, C. H., & Mazur, E. (2001). Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics, 69(9), 970–977.

Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2009). Active learning: An introduction. ASQ Higher Education Brief, 2(4), 1-5.

Hake, R. R. (1998). Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics, 66(1), 64–74.

Smith, K. A., Sheppard, S. D., Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2005). Pedagogies of Engagement: Classroom-Based Practices. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 87–101.

Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69(1), 21–51.

Bishop, J. L., & Verleger, M. A. (2013, June). The flipped classroom: A survey of the research. In ASEE National Conference Proceedings, Atlanta, GA (Vol. 30, No. 9, pp. 1-18).

Bransford, J. D., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (1999). How people learn: Mind, brain, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Research Council.