5 Active Learning Strategies You’re Already Using and 5 to Try

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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The first few weeks of classes are cruising, and your students aren’t yet snoozing. Either they haven’t yet lost that new-school-year excitement, or your active learning strategies are keeping them engaged–perhaps a mix of both! 

Active learning requires that students learn by doing; they aren’t only passive observers of class lectures. Instead, instructors create an environment in which students are able to practice their understanding of course material and develop skills by actively participating. 

Active learning not only improves student engagement; it also increases student performance. According to a 2014 meta-analysis of 225 previous studies, the implementation of active learning techniques correlated with students earning nearly half a letter grade higher on test scores in science, engineering, and mathematics. 

Active learning works, which is why many instructors are already using these five active learning strategies in their classrooms:

  1. 5 Active Learning Strategies (1).pngAsking students to work through problems in class. This can include solving math problems, working through economics concepts such as supply and demand, or responding to an essay prompt.  
  2. Assigning group work. Each member of the group can also be assigned a specific task to ensure that all students are actively engaged. 
  3. Assigning presentations. When students are asked to present, they’re required to reflect on their knowledge and communicate their understanding. Presentations allow students to practice many skills including task or group member delegation, research, and speaking skills, among others. 
  4. Participating in LMS discussion boards. Students are able to share their thoughts about class material and interact with others virtually. 
  5. Asking students to facilitate small group discussions. Not all students feel comfortable sharing their ideas in large classes but are more inclined to in small groups. 

Exhausted this repertoire of active learning strategies and looking for new techniques to try? No problem! Here are five less commonly used active learning strategies to keep your students engaged through the end of the semester: 

  1. 5 Active Learning Strategies (2).pngUsing Case Studies. Case studies provide students with real-world examples of the concepts they’re learning in the classroom and help them contextualize course content. Case studies also provide an easy way to foster collaboration between students by incorporating the common active learning strategies listed above.
  2. In-Class Polling. Similar to asking students to work through problems or answer quiz questions, in-class polling gives every student a low stakes way to get involved. In-class polling promotes critical thinking and reflection by asking students questions that are more experiential. 
  3. Peer Instruction. Ever heard an instructor say that they finally learned the material by heart because they were tasked with teaching it? The same applies to your students. Having to communicate what you’ve learned with others reinforces your own grasp of the material. 
  4. Gamification. It’s time to turn classtime into gametime! Keeping learners engaged can be a challenge, and one solution is to teach through games. You can have your students participate individually or in teams, and you can provide incentives such as points earned for correct answers. 
  5. Pre-Class Activities. Unlike regular homework assignments turned in before class and not discussed until graded and handed back to students, pre-class activities require that students come prepared to class with something that will be used during that current class period. 

Macmillan Learning’s digital learning platform, Achieve, and iClicker make it easy to implement many of these active learning strategies. Achieve is a comprehensive course management system that’s accessible to students before, during, and after class, and iClicker was designed specifically for student engagement, lending itself to teaching techniques such as interactive games and easy polling. 

Have you tried some of these active learning strategies in your classroom or have others not included above? We’d like to hear from you! Let us know about your experiences with active learning strategies in the comments below.