Page Highlights

  • Definition of Active Learning
  • Key Attributes
  • Why Use
  • List of active learning strategies

Definition of Active Learning Strategies

Active learning strategies are a set of instructional practices that faciliate a learner, either individually or with others, to use higher order thinking, enage in metacognition (reflection), and participate in the active processing of the content. These strategies are based on the theory that knowledge and understanding is not trasmitted, i.e. the learner is not a empty vessel to be filled up by the teacher.

Key Attributes of Active Learning

  • strategies to support high involvement of learners (Harmin, 1994); learners are doing i.e. discovering, processing, and applying information (**McKinney, 2010)

  • high involvement = read, write, discuss, engage in problem solving & high order thinking tasks such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Bonwell & Eison as cited by McKinney, 2010)

  • more than just listen: (Chickering & Gamson as cited by Bonwelll & Eison, 1991), more emphasis on developing students' skills, students are involved in higher-order thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation (Bonwell & Eison as cited by McKinney, 2010)

  • less emphasis is placed on transmitting information (McKinney, 2010)

  • active learning strategies defines as activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing (Bonwell & Eison as cited by McKinney, 2010)

  • two basic assumptions: (1) that learning is by nature an active endeavor (Meyers & Jones as cited by McKinney, 2010) and (2) that different people learn in different ways" (Meyers & Jones as cited by McKinney, 2010).

  • redefines classroom practice no longer a static view of learning . . . knowledge is poured into the passive, empty minds of student learners to a more dynamic view where, through project-based, collaborative, and problem-based activities, students play a more vital role in creating new knowledge to be applied to other professional and academic contexts. (The Ohio Learning Network, n.d.)

  • redefines the role of the teacher to one that creates " interactive relationships with their students" . . . that encourage "collaboration and real-world application. . . . activities ensure that learning is a “two-way street.” (The Ohio Learning Network, n.d)

  • focus on learning processes rather than on learning products (The Ohio Learning Network, n.d)

  • may be some resistance to active learning by students accustomed to lectures, students who prefer passive learning, or students in large classes (who don't expect it) (McKinney, 2010)

  • prepare learners for active learning (McKinney, 2010)

Why Use Active Learning?

+ impact on retention

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Active Learning Strategies

In the backchannel please post other active learning strategies that are missing from this list.



Activate Prior Knowledge

  • KWL (Individal or collaborative)

  • The Question, All Write (Individual)

  • Concept mapping

  • Think Alone


  • KWL (build community by sharing prior knowledge, what people are interested in learning, what they have learned

  • Think Pair Share (both individiual & collaborative)

  • Sharing Pairs (collaborative)

  • Collaborative learning groups


  • Outcome Sentence (individual)

  • Question All Write (Individual)

  • Student-led review sessions

  • Keeping journals or logs

  • Exit Cards

Formative Assessment

  • Whip Around, Pass Option (collaborative)

  • Question All Write (Individual)

  • Think Aloud (Individual)

  • Keeping journals or logs

  • Concept mapping

Focus on Understanding

  • Games

  • Analysis or reactions to videos

  • Student debates

  • Student generated exam questions

  • Mini-research proposals or projects; a class research symposium

  • Analyze case studies

  • Write and produce a newsletter

  • Concept mapping