How to Implement Active Learning for Classrooms 2018-12-18T12:10:42+00:00

How to Implement Active Learning for Classrooms

Decades of research have indicated that less instruction plus more feedback is a winning formula for creating greater learning【1】. While it may seem to be a simple, straightforward concept, making feedback truly impactful has often eluded even the most dedicated educators. Providing effective feedback is one of the most meaningful ways an educator can impact student learning. People found the active learning can enhance student performance.【Graph 1】

We review the active learning, the challenges, tips & tricks to delivering it, and how interactive technology can help teachers deliver timely, engaging feedback with the power to significantly affect greater learning.

Active learning works

Active learning is generally defined as an instructional method that places student learning as the focus.This type of learning requires students to become hands-on and take part in meaningful activities. The aim of active learning is to remove the teacher from the centre of the stage and encourage the student to take lead. Very much a communicative and dialogue based approach, the concept of active learning is literally about engaging and immersing students in an educational experiences.

Performance of Undergraduate
in STEM courses

On average, students taught with active learning outperformed those
taught by lectures by 6 percentage points on their exam.

There is a wealth of robust research on active learning, and a wealth of ways that it is described. The most concise definition is Michael Prince’s explanation:

“Active learning is generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing”

In experiments (STEM courses)【3】comparing traditional based lectures to more active learning techniques, results showed that 12% fewer students failed exams, while the average year saw a 6% rise on average. While some teaches may choose to re-arrange the look and feel of the classroom, aligning the desks into groups of four in order for more collaborative project based work to take place, the simple addition of just a few simple edtech collaborative tools can do the trick.

This can be demonstrated through shared online resources in which students can work off one document together. Google Classroom and some digital whiteboard are such examples of collaboration in which a teacher can flip their lesson so that class time can be used for active learning.

Cognitively engaged

Besides, by it’s definition anything ‘active’ engages, more than something ‘passive’, which is why ‘active learning’ can be confused easily. On observation an engaged student, concentrating on a piece of work does not necessarily mean they are ‘actively’ learning. The difference is that active learning requires that
the learner is cognitively engaged – so they are also considering both what they are doing and how this might help them learn.

Break it down. When it comes to practices that require an ‘active’ audience, like listening, media consumption or learning, ‘active’ learning recognises that one is cognitively engaged with a process. For example, ‘active listening’ is something a coach can do by illustrating that they are focused on what you are saying rather than their own interpretation of the conversation. Being an active audience with new technologies often means being interactive with the product, like a video game, using an app or a digital whiteboard, rather than passively watching a TV show. When it comes to ‘active learning’ this interaction is also key. And it makes sense – when a learner has to reflect, think critically and respond (including giving feedback to their peers) they will be more engaged in the lesson’s content.

Although, arguably ‘home learning’ encourages these outcomes too, active learning is referred more as learning in the classroom. This means using classroom materials that involve students as individuals (from the use of language to personalised resources) and giving learners both choices and accountability is a far cry from ‘traditional’ education. This is one of the reasons that educational professionals are embracing the research and throwing it into their classrooms across the globe.

Another of the well-known theories is that of Richard E. Mayer’s – probably due to his exploration of how multimedia fits in with this. As a teacher or educational coach, he/she knows first hand how making your subject content relevant is enhanced by both what the learner’s already know and how you present the material. Mayer recognised that there are three primary cognitive processes involved in active learning:

  1. The selection of relevant material
  2. Mentally organising the materials into meaningful representations
  3. Integrating these representations with prior knowledge.

Take the second cognitive process:

2. Mentally organising the materials into meaningful representations.

As a teacher or educational coach, this makes absolute sense. When a teacher is creating online learning modules for adults, he/she opens bring in the ‘Dual Coding Theory’ (DCT) of combining words (“logogens”) and visuals (“imagens”) to help others to learn by using infographics, PPTs (with voice over) or a range of video and images.

To ensure that active learning is effective, Mayer argues that at least one of there cognitive activities are open to learners. Whereas ‘learning styles’ opted for a kinaesthetic approach (physical activity or ‘doing it’ as some interpreted it in INSET days gone by), Mayer focuses instead on the mental processing as a means to successful learning. As a result, online lectures can promotive active learning if they stimulate cognitive activity correctly.


TED: Physically Active Learning proves positive impacts on academic performance,
classroom behaviour and cognition (

Challenges faced in an active learning model

One of the major challenges in using an active learning model in the classroom is engaging reluctant learners. It is all too easy for the disengaged student to take a back seat in classroom, allowing the others to take lead while he/she prefers to be passive and have all the answers come from his/her peers or instructor.

A classroom adopting the active learning model needs to be continuously managed. With a number of small project based activities taking place in the class, noise levels can rise and can become distracting for the learners. As part of the process of the learning journey, a teacher needs to become aware of what their students are doing, any challenges they face and how he/she can help overcome them with the students. This can become especially demanding on a teachers time and efforts. It is imperative that the teacher has a well thought of plan and should prepare instructions for classroom based planned activities for students to follow and keep on task if necessary.

The use of technology in active learning classrooms can be helpful however if students are using a wide variety of applications in the classroom, this can potentially lead into a technical helpdesk nightmare for the teacher. To keep consistency, simplicity and structure, it may sensible for the teacher to offer a few choices of appropriate applications that the students have used in the past and which are appropriate for the task at hand. Encourage older students to develop their skill of up to date and collaborative learning through the use of online group conversations/forums such as, Twitter or LinkedIn.


Tips and Tricks to implement the active learning

  1. Plan and Organise – Prepare the room, update and distribute instructions to avoid ambiguity and be aware of time.
  2. Technology Use – Keep the variety of applications to a minimum with young children. The classroom will be buzzing with excitement and the last thing you want is to spend the majority of your time trying to get the technology working.
  3. Facilitate – Carefully brief the group on their activities and then leave them to discuss and come up with a plan. Talk with and listen to your students as much as possible to see the world from their point of view. Steer the conversation back on track if necessary.
  4. Feedback – Get the students to offer feedback to one another. This can also be done anonymously through tools such as Google Forms, Socrative, or a digital whiteboard.

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Here are some ways that can encourage active learning in your classroom:

  • Peer reviews
  • Role-plays
  • Power Teaching
  • Case Studies
  • PBL Problem Based Learning
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Flipped LearningThe suggestion is you take time to consider why active learning will help your students engage more with the subject content – and how you, and they, will know that they are learning as a result.

Better active learning with interactive tools

In one national survey of pre-K-12 teachers, 74% said that classroom and instructional technologies are extremely important or very important. Among these technologies, the front-of-room display plays a critical role. 【4】

The use of interactive and collaborative technology in the classroom has become prevalent in active learning. Many technologies play a part – Chromebooks, iPads, huddle stations and more. Delivering the ability to display computer content to an entire room plus the ability to annotate content directly on screen, interactive displays such as a digital whiteboard represents a transformative shift in the way students and teachers can interact with information as well as with one another.

Help Teachers Prepare
Designed for easy, intuitive use by all ages and abilities, the smartphone/tablet-like interface makes teachers feel familiar and fun to operate, eliminating lengthy learning curves. Featured functions include a variety of writing, drawing, and multimedia tools.

Help Teachers Present
Whether it is wireless or complex wired network, the solutions provide a stable connection with superb display quality. Offering manageable content sharing capabilities, users can broadcast their screen images from Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or Chrome devices.

Help Students Participate
With multi-screen mirroring and multi-touch capabilities, teachers are able to turn lectures into group activities in an instant. Multi-screen mirroring gives participants an overview while multi-touch enables users to annotate on the display simultaneously; thus, increases student engagement.

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