Implementing Active Learning
Active Learning (AL) is an instructional approach that engages students in the materials they are learning through, promoting critical thinking and collaboration between educators and learners.
USF’s commitment to academic excellence includes the conversion of all qualified classrooms into active learning spaces in support of two University Strategic Initiatives:
- Increasing technology solutions to enhance learning and improve service; and
- Facilities to support outstanding educational programs.
This webpage provides resources on how to incorporate active learning into your teaching and information about existing active learning spaces at USF.
Active Learning Pedagogies
Learn more about pedagogical techniques and activities you can implement and how Instructional Design can help transform your classroom.
Active learning pedagogies promote the retention and deeper understanding of material, as students are engaging with content rather than passively listening. Bligh (1998) found that among students who are actively engaged in class, far fewer experience a "drop off" in concentration; after just 10-15 minutes, a learner stops listening effectively. Freeman et al. (2014) further notes that students' exam scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections.
In addition, flipped pedagogical approaches encourage students to acquire and construct their own knowledge: “A lecture can transmit information in a way that engages and even inspires students . . . In this student-centered approach, the teacher gives up the role of the “sage on the stage” and becomes the “guide on the side” (Bernstein, 2018, p. 291).
- What's The Use of Lectures? (Bligh, 1998, 1e) | Available electronically at Gleeson Library
- "Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics" (Freeman et al., PNAS Early Edition)
- "Does Active Learning work?" (Bernstein, 2018, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology)
- "Enhancing Diversity in Undergraduate Science: Self-Efficacy Drives Performance Gains with Active Learning" (Ballen et al., Life Sciences Education)
Introducing active learning in your classroom does not require a dramatic overhaul of your current course! Individual exercises allow for assessing student learning through short quizzes and writing assignment.
Some pedagogical techniques encourage full-class participation, ranging from socratic seminars and class debates to jigsaw reading assignments. The resources below, curated by teaching institutes, offer strategies on promoting student collaboration and guided learning.
- "Active and Cooperative Learning" (CSU Los Angeles - Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry)
- "Active Learning Strategies" (UC Berkeley - Center for Teaching and Learning)
- "Engaging students in learning" (University of Washington - Center for Teaching and Learning)
- "Implementing Active Learning in Your Classroom" (University of Michigan - Center for Research on Learning and Teaching)
- "Teaching Strategies" (Stanford University - Teaching Commons)
- "Varied Teaching Methods" (MIT - Teaching+Learning Lab Teaching Guidelines)
Instructional Design (ID) provides consultations on ways to incorporate active learning pedagogy into your teaching, including enhancing the use of technology in classrooms and promoting online/hybrid course design. Our instructional designers and multimedia developers hold workshops and 1:1 trainings for faculty at USF.
Teaching with Technology
USF is committed to the implementation of Active Learning through creating adaptive, technology-enhanced learning spaces and supporting new instructional technologies.
John Belcher (Professor of Physics, MIT) and fellow instructors at the university began the Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) Project to analyze student success in their courses. Since the project's conception in the late 1990s, the principal researchers have developed new first-year physics courses that combine traditional lecture-based teaching with flipped teaching techniques including interactive presentations and opportunities for students to collaborate.
- Case Study: "Student Engagement in Large Classes with Poll Everywhere" (Teaching@Tufts University)
- Resource list: Examples of Faculty Using Instructional Technology (University of Michigan)
- "Technology for active learning" (Dori et al., Materials Today)
- "Technology in Teaching" (Stanford University - Teaching Commons)
The Echo360 Active Learning Platform includes a suite of student response and engagement tools that can be embedded into presentations and recordings to assess learning and provoke thoughtful discussions in class. Echo360 course instructors can enable polls, surveys, and evaluations that students can access via a web browser or the Echo360 mobile app. Engagements can be integrated to Canvas courses for easy grading and accessibility in traditional, flipped, and digital (online/hybrid) courses.
In supported classrooms, Echo360 can automatically record your multimedia presentations and capture audio/video through microphones and an instructor-facing video camera. Recordings are accessible via a web interface and the Echo360 mobile app and can be further integrated into your Canvas course. New for January 2019: Echo360 ALP automatically transcribes audio into transcripts and closed captioning, accommodating different learning styles.
In addition, USF students and faculty can upload their own recordings and take advantage of its active learning tools available in the Echo360 ALP using Universal Capture. This software can be installed on any macOS or PC computer.
Leveraging Educational Technology in Your Classroom
Using solutions already available to the USF community, the Instructional Design team works with faculty to incorporate collaborative technologies into their online, hybrid, and in-person courses. Professor Kelly L'Engle in the School of Nursing and Health Professions worked with an instructional designer to help students facilitate conversations for their final projects using Canvas group features, Zoom, and a three-part case study from previous students. The digitization of Program Planning and Evaluation for the online Master of Public Health program is highlighted in this case study.
A 2018 EDUCAUSE publication describes Active Learning Classrooms as a vital innovation in contemporary learning, indicating spaces that promote student engagement and collaboration positively impact students' class performances. Although research remains in development, colleagues at North Carolina State University, UC Berkeley, and the University of Washington have launched pilots for expanding ALCs across their campuses. ALCs challenge instructors to incorporate technology and reframe knowledge acquisition as a two-way relationship with students.
- "7 Things You Should Know About Research on Active Learning Classrooms" (EDUCAUSE)
- "Do interactive learning spaces increase student achievement? A comparison of classroom context" (Vercellotti, Active Learning in Higher Education)
- "Technological Innovation or Educational Evolution? A Multidisciplinary Qualitative Inquiry into Active Learning Classrooms" (Gordy et al., Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning)
Adaptive Learning Spaces
USF has a variety of classrooms with flexible furniture and enhanced technology to support active learning.
USF is committed to supporting TEAL through the opening of Gleeson 213, the university's first TEAL classroom. This space features (6) LCD TVs and a main AV system, each supporting connectivity via HDMI and AirPlay. The room also includes (40) Steelcase "Node" chairs for flexible rearrangement.
Read the story: Creating Gleeson 213