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A rainbow indicates a spectrum of active learning techniques

Active Learning Spectrum

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A Spectrum of Active Learning Strategies

There are many active learning modalities informed by different teaching and learning traditions. We envision these modalities on a spectrum. This spectrum can be rearranged depending on the quality of the modality. Here we have ordered them based upon the amount of preparation time that might be needed to enact them in your classroom. We challenge you to also think about how you might reorder them based upon how inclusive they are. When considering inclusion, we suggest integrating principles of Universal Design in all active learning modalities.


Pauses
Pauses

Purposeful use of pauses within a lecture to emphasize important points and provide processing and questioning time

Snowball
Snowball

Instructor poses a question and students write their answers on a piece of paper. They crumple it up and throw it at a box held by the instructor or learning assistant.

Muddiest Point
Muddiest Point

During a lecture pause or at the end of the lecture, the instructor or learning assistant asks the students to write down the concept that was most confusing. This can be done on paper or using a polling software.

Polling
Polling

Using technology or simpler way of displaying an answer to rapidly assess student understanding (& can then directly address misconceptions)


Self-Assessment
Self-Assessment

Students rate their perceived competence in completing a task or answering a question.

Discussions
Discussions

Engaging students in meaningful dialogue

Gallery Walk
Gallery Walk

After working to solve a problem or answer a question, students post their responses (drawings or other creations) on the wall/around the room. Students then rotate around the room learning from fellow students/teams responses.

Matches
Matches

Students are each given a card or paper that contains a term, phrase or image that somehow connects to another student’s card or paper. Students are instructed to find their ‘match’ linking, terms and definitions, structure and function, item and image, for example.


Thought Barometer
Thought Barometer

Instructor or learning assistant poses an opinion question and ask people to stand in a particular location in the room based on their response.

Debate
Debate

Students are given or asked to take a stance on an issue. Student groups often work together for a few minutes to develop a statement, both sides share and rebuttals can continue as time allows.

Peer Evaluation
Peer-Evaluation

Students evaluate a peer/s using clear guidelines describing expectations (e.g. a collaboratively generated rubric or charter)

Re-teaching
Re-teaching

Can have many forms but formally asks students to teach concepts that have already been presented by the instructor or outside resources. May involve students creating a video, skit, lecture, handout or presentation.


Ask an Expert
Ask an Expert

Have a subject matter expert available via text or another technology for real-time class discussion

Drawing
Drawing

Students illustrate scientific components and processes

Narrative Storytelling
Narrative/Storytelling

Students use stories and narratives to make difficult scientific concepts more accessible and transferrable.

Case Studies
Case Studies

A real-life story or situation that encourages and allows students to explore/investigate issues related to a concept, often in effort to make a discovery or solve a case


Concept Mapping
Concept Mapping

Students or student groups illustrate the relationships that exist between studied terms or concepts, often describing connections with short phrases or symbols on the constructed web or map.

Modeling
Modeling

Students are asked to create a representation of a system or process and design/develop/build a depiction

Object-based Learning
Object-based Learning (OBL)

students use deep looking and reflect upon (and even handle) objects in order to expand the depth of their knowledge

Cooperative Learning
Cooperative Learning

“A structured form of small group problem solving that incorporates the use of heterogeneous teams, maintains individual accountability, promotes positive interdependence, instills group processing, and sharpens social/leadership skills.” – Barbara Millis


Games
Games and Game Theory

Potentially taking many different forms, educators provide an active instructional session for students that often requires concept application to earn points or improve ranking compared to other students or student groups.

Simulations
Simulations and Virtual Worlds

Potentially taking many different forms,

Enactments
Enactments

Students act out specific parts or situations to enhance concept or process understanding.

Flipped Classroom
Flipped Classroom

Providing content material outside of class (i.e. through video) to allow for in-class activities.


Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated Instruction

Ensuring that each individual student meets the learning outcomes by designing instruction with students' interests, passions and goals in mind. 

Inquiry Based Learning
Inquiry-based Learning

Student concept discovery and development through investigation (w/ leveled guidance)

TBL
Team-based Learning (TBL)

A form of small-group learning that utilizes a flipped classroom, a readiness assurance process and application activitiesconcept discovery and development through investigation (w/ leveled guidance)

PBL
Problem-based Learning (PBL)

Students apply course concepts to describe and potentially solve a selected problem


Experiential Learning
Experiential Learning

Knowledge, skill and value development from direct experience, reflection, conceptualization and experimentation often outside a traditional academic setting (i.e. internships, study abroad, undergraduate research, residency programs, etc.)

Service Learning
Service Learning

Applying course content to assist and provide a service for an organization, group or individual in the community

Place-based Learning
Place-based Education (PBE)

Learning that embeds in the local environment and values students’ experience

Action Learning
Action Learning

Employs a diverse group of learners in solving real-world, complex and urgent problems

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