Active Learning: A Teacher's Guide

What is Active Learning?

The term active learning encompasses a wide variety of classroom activities. But what does it mean? It's important to start with an active learning definition that offers you a clear sense of the process. Active learning puts the responsibility on students to be deeply involved in their own learning, understanding, and pursuit of knowledge. Active learning theory maintains that when a student is an active, rather than a passive, participant in the learning process, the overall learning will be more effective.

Active learning is often project based, meaning students participate in complex projects through which they gain a handle on new concepts. Active learning is also inquiry based, which means it gives students the opportunity to pursue answers to their own questions and interests.

In an active learning classroom, technology can facilitate students' independence and give them a chance to find the answers they need. There is a great deal of active learning in flipped classrooms, because a flipped classroom gives students time to read and learn on their own before coming together with fellow students and teachers to discuss and work through their findings.

Active Learning Strategies

There are many different ways to use active learning strategies in the classroom. Teachers can start a discussion to make sure students take ownership over their own participation and talk through new ideas and skills with peers. Think-pair-share is a great strategy in which students first think about what they want to say or learn, pair with a partner to discuss, and only then share with the whole group.

Kinesthetic learning is another active learning strategy that can be used in the classroom. Kinesthetic learners are those students who learn by moving their bodies and touching manipulatives. To involve movement, teachers can have students catch a ball to answer a question, perform a skit, walk around the room during partner discussions, and so on.

Overall, using active learning strategies is one of the most effective ways to create a challenging learning environment where all students are motivated to do their best to succeed.

Why Use Active Learning?

There are many different reasons to use active learning strategies including:

  • Active learning in the classroom ensures that each student has a voice in their own learning, thus maximizing student engagement over the course of the school day.
  • Examples of active learning from a variety of classrooms show that students who are exposed to active learning strategies feel like they know themselves better as learners and thinkers. These students are then better equipped to extend their own learning independently over the course of their education.
  • Students who have learned to be more active in class are also more prepared to learn on the job, to pursue the ideas and questions that matter to them, and to feel engaged and motivated during the time they spend in school.

The Challenges of Active Learning

One main challenge with active learning is controlling the pace of the classroom. Every student in a classroom is different, and active learning activities must be differentiated thoughtfully so that each student can proceed through material at their own pace. Further, active learning should provide the right amount of stimulation to keep students engaged without distracting them from the intent of the lesson.

Active learning works best if there are well-articulated goals in mind. Clear objectives help teachers construct and facilitate activities that allow students to achieve mastery while also learning how to participate in groups and in their own learning. Though there are challenges with active learning, they can certainly be overcome with thoughtful planning.

Active Learning Teacher Grant from
Receive $1000 to spend on the materials and resources you need to deliver well-planned activities.
  • Receive $1000 and a 12-month membership to supplement your teaching
  • Must be a full time preschool to 12th grade teacher
  • Fill out the application form to enter!
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