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Active Learning Activities

Active learning is the process of engaging students in activities that encourage them to think about what they are doing. The students, usually in groups, get hands-on experience with the subject matter and can assess their own degree of understanding and skill at handling the concepts being taught. With the active learning process, students transition from being passive recipients of information to being participants actively engaged with new information in a learning environment.  Active learning activities promote cognitive processing, retention and use of information.

Activities for Lectures

  • Structured Notes: Provide a detailed outline of the presentation with key words or phrases left out. Students fill these in as the lecture progresses.
  • Labeling a Diagram: Give each student an unlabeled diagram or picture to label as the information is given during class.
  • Exampling: Ask students to describe examples and non-examples of a concept, problem, situation, or principle.
  • Incomplete Statements: Give students incomplete statements to complete.
  • Three Points Summary: Ask students to summarize the three most important points of a lecture in their own words.


Individual Activities

  • Individual Exercises: These provide an opportunity for the students to practice skills. This could include labeling, rank ordering, multiple choice, problem solving, or true/false and completion. Exercises must be completed in a set time period and the instructor gives and discusses the correct answers.
  • Role Play: Students are given a situation and a role to play of a character in the situation. Without practice, they act out the events in the situation. Role play may be used for the purpose of situation analysis or to provide feedback to the students about their own behavior.
  • Questioning Strategies: Questions which the students will be asked are planned by the instructor prior to the lecture. Each question is written out and is related to a learning objective. In case of no response or incorrect responses, the instructor will also be prepared to ask easier or lower learning level questions which will lead the student to answer the original question.
  • Personal Vignette: Given a topic or learning objective, the students are asked to relate it to their real experiences (personal or professional) by telling a brief story about it.
  • Progress Quizzes: Short self-tests which are not graded. Answers are provided to the students after completing the quiz.


Group Activities

  • Buzz/Brainstorm Sessions: A small group of students work within a brief time limit to answer a question or solve a problem.
  • Rank and Report: Students rank the importance of a series of items or issues and report the results with a justification.
  • Complete Case Studies: Provide real world descriptions of problems with all accompanying data. Groups are asked to resolve the problem within a given period of time. Each group makes recommendations while the instructor acts as moderator.
  • Think-Pair-Share (TPS): Given a problem, students first work alone, then in pairs, and finally in foursomes (maximum) and compare, refine, and revise their conclusions and recommendations.
  • Presentation with Listening Teams: A lecture followed by an organized question/answer/discussion period. Before the presentation, students are organized into small groups and each group is given a listening assignment, e.g., listen for a point that can be applied to a particular situation, etc. At the end of the presentation, each group makes comments and asks questions related to their particular assignment.


Activities to Promote Class Discussion

  • Choices: Given data on an event and several choices, students are asked to discuss all choices. They may select a choice, justify it, and give the consequences.
  • Debate: This is an organized and civil argument moderated by the instructor.
  • Modeling: Students are shown an ideal product, situation or person. Through questioning and discussion, they are able to explain why this is a “model” of what it is.
  • Simulation: Students role play cases, problems, scenarios, for a critical situation which is discussed and analyzed.  Decisions are made about how to resolve the situation.
  • Read and Discuss:  Providing guiding questions for a short reading followed by a discussion.


Activities to End a Class

  • Minute Paper (or Muddiest Point): At the end of class, ask students to jot down: 1) the most important concept(s) or point(s) from class and/or the “muddiest” or most confusing information presented in class.
  • Active Review: After the instructor summarizes and synthesizes the class, students spend two-three minutes quietly thinking or reading through their notes to identify any points of confusion. They clarify any points of confusion by asking questions of one another and the instructor.
  • The Silent Question:  The instructor asks students to respond to the following question: “A question I still have about this topic but have been afraid to ask is…” Students write their questions on a sheet of paper and the instructor addresses questions then if time permits, or at the next class.