Active Learning: Student Initiated Pedagogy

Written by Matthew Kim
September 13, 2019 • 3 minute read

Engaging your students in class is a challenge many instructors like yourself experience when preparing for class. Applying different learning activities encourages students to actively learn about course concepts and content. 

In a setting of a traditional classroom or online discussion boards, the ability for you to combine your own pedagogies, technology, and the active space can all be used for active learning. Active Learning pedagogies utilizes a student’s thought process at a higher retention rate and deeper understanding of the subject being introduced. Thus, providing students to be engaged and encouraged to participate. In other words, it will lead them to a higher percentage of academic excellence on their assignments, exams, and therefore their overall grade. 

Active Learning pedagogies come in wide varieties. Depending on your course material, not every technique will be effective and efficient. It is important to start out simple and make your way to complex techniques because some students may not be prepared to adapt new classroom pedagogies right away. Here are some examples of active learning techniques:


  • One-Minute Paper: At any given point during class, ask your students to write for one minute about the subject or topic they learned. Essentially, this will stimulate their recollection of the information they just absorbed. 
  • Think-Pair-Share: Have your students tackle a problem or reflect on a reading. Then, have them pair up together and simply discuss their conclusions. If they are not similar, have them find a middle ground and explain their analysis to the rest of the classroom. 


  • Brainstorming:  Before beginning a new topic or issue, have students discuss how it can be applicable to the classroom as well as their personal life. Students can provide examples of real world issues. 
  • Case Studies: Utilizing real world examples allow students to make the necessary connections and create a deeper bond to the concept they are learning. 


  • Jigsaw Discussion: This technique allows students to facilitate their own learning environment. As a professor, introduce a general topic that can be divided into smaller pieces. Students, in teams, will each be assigned to become an expert on one of the smaller topics. Then, each member will be given the opportunity to teach their team members on their “puzzle” piece. Once everyone has shared their expertise, it will ultimately complete the jigsaw puzzle. 
  • Experiential Learning: This technique provides real life situations to students by allowing them to visit sites where they can apply the concepts discussed in their course. 


Are you or someone you know finding success with incorporating active learning in the classroom? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Email

List of USF's Educational Technologies

Whether you don’t know where to start or have a particular educational technology in mind, we are here to help! To learn how to apply educational technologies to your course, request an Instructional Design consultation.

Contact Instructional Technology & Training to schedule a training session and access self-guided training materials. 



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USF's Instructional Designers offer a two-hour in-person workshop on active learning pedagogies. Create and integrate activities in your course to help with student understanding and interaction, with and without technology.

For more information, email the Instructional Design team.