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Overview of Active Learning Techniques

Some active learning activities can be incorporated into the classroom and outside of the classroom. The key to choosing a topic for a given activity is to clearly identify authentic tasks/activities that you would like to cover, and then develop clear instructions and an explanation of the purpose of the activity for students. To help gauge the efforts and time in preparing and implementing these techniques, we’ve mapped some of the major techniques below. Please note the following classifications:


Low Preparation: little or no research is required, little development time for instructor
Medium Preparation: some research and development time is necessary
High Preparation: extensive research and development time


Low Activity: minor part of class or partial homework
Medium Activity: one class/majority of class, one week’s homework/outside class work
High Activity: multiple days or weeks in class or outside of class work

Preparation and Activity for Active Learning Techniques    

Student Participation

Many of these techniques can be adapted for individual learning, paired learning, and group learning, and can have one or more goals/outcomes. For example, for individual learning, students may be asked to personalize, reflect, explore, and consider their own thought processes. With paired or group learning, students will be asked to listen, synthesize, and collaborate. Students are expected to learn from each other and therefore must be able to assess and take ownership of their own learning.

The size of your class may determine your approach: given that the ideal group size is approx. 3-5 students (every student is accountable in the group dynamic), if there are 300 students in the class, groups may designate one student to speak for the rest of the group (likewise, other roles may be assigned for other members) which may be easier to facilitate during class and take up less time.

Similarly, it might be easier to facilitate a large group active-learning activity asynchronously. Online collaborative writing tools like collaborative documents (Google docs), wikis, and synchronous discussion tools facilitate group work. Self-evaluation and peer review ensures reflection, participation, and opportunities for evaluation.