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. LAMP faculty member Michele Larson writes about Universal Design to help all students succeed. We invite you to learn about our research Exploring factors that affect feelings of inclusion in diverse active learning settings.
Rachel Watson, Director of the Learning Actively Mentoring Program (LAMP), writes
about the underpinnings of active learning in Understanding and Facilitating Learning.
Purposeful use of pauses within a lecture to emphasize important points and provide
processing and questioning time.
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.
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.
Using technology or simpler way of displaying an answer to rapidly assess student
understanding (& can then directly address misconceptions).
Students rate their perceived competence in completing a task or answering a question.
Engaging students in meaningful dialogue.
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.
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,
Instructor or learning assistant poses an opinion question and ask people to stand
in a particular location in the room based on their response.
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.
Students evaluate a peer/s using clear guidelines describing expectations (e.g. a
collaboratively generated rubric or charter).
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
Have a subject matter expert available via text or another technology for real-time
Students illustrate scientific components and processes.
Students use stories and narratives to make difficult scientific concepts more accessible
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.
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.
Students are asked to create a representation of a system or process and design/develop/build
Object-based Learning (OBL)
Students use deep looking and reflect upon (and even handle) objects in order to expand
the depth of their knowledge.
“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 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 and Virtual Worlds
Potentially taking many different forms.
Students act out specific parts or situations to enhance concept or process understanding.
Providing content material outside of class (i.e. through video) to allow for in-class
Ensuring that each individual student meets the learning outcomes by designing instruction
with students' interests, passions and goals in mind.
Student concept discovery and development through investigation (w/ leveled guidance).
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).
Problem-based Learning (PBL)
Students apply course concepts to describe and potentially solve a selected problem.
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.).
Applying course content to assist and provide a service for an organization, group
or individual in the community.
Place-based Education (PBE)
Learning that embeds in the local environment and values students’ experience.
Employs a diverse group of learners in solving real-world, complex and urgent problems.
While enacting active learning modalities through best practices is one very important
piece of nurturing student learning, when educators share their philosophies and reasons
for adopting evidence-based practices, students' learning can be enhanced even more.
In the vodcast below, Dr. Tawfik Elshehabi of UW's Petroleum Engineering Department
facilitates a LAMP Coffee & Curriculum Session entitled When We Care, We Share: Empowering Students with an Innovative Visual Teaching Philosophy.
UW Science Initiative
SIB Rm 2030
Department 4325, 1000 E. University
Laramie, WY 82071