How to Promote Active Learning within the Classroom

We are not about to propose that you throw out lecturing and make every class you teach a total active learning extravaganza. You know more than most of your students do about your subject, and you need to spend part of your class time teaching them what you know – explaining, clarifying, demonstrating, modeling, etc. What we are suggesting is to avoid making lecturing the only thing you do.

(Felder and Brent, 2009)

As I mentioned in the previous post, active learning makes sense. Students cannot learn material passively, so the transition from traditional lecture format to active learning is intuitive. What teacher doesn’t want their students to learn better? Thus, I was all gung ho about the concept when I first discovered it. I developed several learning activities that I thought I could have the students do during lecture time instead of me talking.  My idea was that students would read the material before class and then we would spend class time learning. The complete opposite of the traditional model of the material being presented during class time and students learning the material outside of class. I turned my lecture into an “active learning extravaganza”.



Students did not come to class prepared or they didn’t understand what they read. I still had to spend time explaining the material. I learned that I couldn’t replace lecturing completely with active learning activities. I wish I had read Felder and Brent’s paper beforehand. My mistake was making the exercises too long. Felder and Brent recommend no longer than 3 minutes.

A much better approach is to intermingle lecture with active learning activities. During the lecture portion, I can focus on more common mistakes or the more difficult concepts, with the rest of the material still in the course handout. The next step is to look at the course material and identify which concepts need lecturing and then how to incorporate a brief active learning activity after the lecture portion.

I still need to refine the balance between course material and learning. I suppose that job will never be done, but shouldn’t prevent us from trying.

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1 Comment

Filed under Active Learning

One response to “How to Promote Active Learning within the Classroom

  1. Thanks for sharing and yes the (Felder and Brent, 2009) is great article and all educators should read it.

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