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Active Learning Strategies

Lecturing, when done well, can be an extremely powerful way to teach students content. It is particularly valuable when students are novices in the field and direct instruction is key to learning (Clark,Kirschner, & Sweller, 2012). To maximize the effectiveness of good lectures, brief yet powerful active learning strategies can be incorporated into the lecture. These brief activities can result in:

  • Higher levels of student engagement with the material and one another
  • Higher motivational level, and
  • Increased mastery of the material being learned.


These activities offer students the opportunities to reflect on, process, and apply the information just learned in the lecture.

Based on research reviewed by Prince (2004), adding a brief interactive exercise into your lecture approximately every fifteen minutes is suggested.

Research has shown that brief non-graded writing exercises during class, for instance, led to higher academic performance on exams (Drabick et al, 2007), and activities such as quizzes that target retrieval practice enhance the long term retention of the content being learned (Karpicke and Roediger, 2007).

Click here for active learning ideas!

Here are some research based ideas (based on SOTL conversation) about incorporating quizzing and retrieval strategies into your class.



Teaching Demonstrations

Interested in adding brief active learning techniques into your lecture?  Check out Dynamic Lecturing presented by Dr. Christine Harrington

Here are some teaching demonstrations that were specifically created for the Student Success (SSD 101) course but the techniques may be applied to other disciplines.

Teaching Demonstration 1:  In this video, students are learning about peer reviewed research.

Teaching Demonstration 2: In this demonstration, prediction is used engage students in a  discussion about whether or not it is a good idea to change answers when taking  a multiple choice test. Research on this topic is explored.

Teaching Demonstration 3:  In this video, students explore research on study practices (Dickinson and O’Connell, 1990) through group work.

Teaching Demonstration 4:  In this demonstration, small group workis used to assist  students with applying research on studying to their daily lives as college  students.

Teaching Demonstration 5:  Students are encouraged to try different note taking methods to capture key content from a research study in this video.


Information from Previous Speakers

Dr. Todd Zakrejsek, the Executive Director of Center for Faculty Excellence at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hll, presented "Overcoming Apathy and Creating Excitement in the Classroom in August 2011.  Click here to view his Power Point presentation which included several active learning strategies.