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


Active Learning

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. To view additional evidence for active learning, see our Faculty Resources page.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Additional resources:


https://web.stanford.edu/dept/CTL/Newsletter/cooperative.pdf [PDF]

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.

Additional resources:



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.