Creating an Active Learning Environment

20 Teaching Strategies for the Active Learning Classroom

Human interactions drive the Active Learning Classroom. For the instructor, this means adopting practices that promote student participation and accommodate (or alleviate) the discomfort and uncertainty that comes with authentic engagement. Below is a list of recommended practices published by the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory of San Francisco State University. 

1. Think - Pair - Share: providing an opportunity for students to first think quietly and then share their ideas with a  partner can help students rehearse and build confidence to share with the whole class , increasing participation.

2. Ask Open - ended Questions: instead of asking verbal questions with only one possible answer (closed - ended  questions), ask questions with multiple possible answers (open - ended questions).

3. Allow Students Time to Write:  an opportunity to write down their ideas on paper helps many students revisit  what they know, formulate question, and rehearse what they may want to share, increasing participation.

4. Multiple Hands, Multiple Voices: after you ask a question, say that you’ll wait for at least 5 students to raise  their hands before you call on anyone, and then really wait for 5 hands. Promote more participation this way.

5. Wait Time: pause for 3 to 5 seconds (longer than you think!) after you ask a question before you call on  anyone to speak or answer the question yourself. Longer wait times will allow more students thinking time.

6. Hand Raising: in large group discussions, h ave students raise their hands. Avoid unstructured speaking  situations where a subset of students can dominate. Work to call on all students who haven’t yet spoken.

7. Use Popsicle Sticks /Index Cards:  write the name of every student in your class on an individual popsicle  stick /index card and put in a cup . When asking a question, pull out 2 - 5 sticks to randomly call on students.

8. Assign Reporters for Small Groups: assign who will speak on behalf of a small group. Randomly determine  this by assigning the reporter as the person who has the longest hair,  darkest shirt,  upcoming birthday, etc.

9. Whip: ask a question that has many possible answers and  have every student share his/her  brief answer.

10. Don’t Judge Responses:encourage students  to  honestly share their ideas. Avoid immediately correcting  wrong answers or incorrect ideas. Student misconceptions can be addressed at a later point in time.

11. Use Praise with Caution:  “excellent job” and “ great answer” can inadvertently discourage other students  from participating if they think they can’t do better than the previous  student’s  response.

12. Learn  Students’ Names:  know your students’ names and use them. Only knowing some students names can  make others feel like they don’t belong. Avoid calling on groups by one person’s name (e.g. Billy’s group).

13. Use Varied  Active Learning Strategies: hands - on activities, think - pair - shares, jigsaw discussions, group  presentations, & case studies  provide more points of access for students than a  teacher - centered  lecture s.

14. Collect Assessment Evidence from Every Student, Every Class: increase the flow of information from  students to instructor by collecting an index card question or an online reflection every class to gauge student  learning, student confusions, and student perspectives on their experiences. Grade for  participation only!

15. Work in Stations /Small Groups: to decrease effective class size and provide more opportunity for  interaction and discussion , consider organizing multiple activities as stations that small groups rotate through.

16. Monitor Student  Participation: pay attention to which students are or are not  participating . Actively  encourage student participation and ask to hear from students you haven’t yet heard from

17. Integrate Culturally Diverse and Relevant Examples: connect the concepts you a re teaching to real - world  examples that span diverse communities and cultures . Show images of culturally diverse people in your class.

18. Establish Classroom Community and Norms: explicitly state that students should work together, help each  other, share  resources, support one another’s learning, and be open to divergent points of view.

19. Don’t Plan Too Much: Students need TIME to think, do , and talk about  what they are learning .  

20. Be Explicit About Promoting Access and  Equity for All Students: Share with students why you use the  teaching strategies t hat you use. Let them know  that you want  and expect  everyone to learn.   

 20 TEACHING STRATEGIES THAT  STRUCTURE  LEARNING  ENVIRONMENTS AND  PROMOTE  FAIRNESS IN  UNDERGRADUATE  CLASSROOMS. Handout provided by The Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory San Francisco State University