Guideline One | Active

1. Effective learning is supported when students are actively engaged in the learning process at every stage.

“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.” Chickering, A. & Gamson, Z. 1987, “Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education, AAHE Bulletin, vol. 39, no. 7, Link

“In those experiments involving measures of retention of information after the end of a course, measures of problem solving, thinking, attitude change, or motivation for further learning, the results tend to show differences favoring discussion methods over lecture.” McKeachie, W.J., Pintrich, P.R., Lin, Y.G., & Smith, D.A. (1987). Teaching and learning in the college classroom: A review of the literature. Ann Arbor: National Center for Research to Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, The University of Michigan.

“If you believe that the teacher, not the students, should be the focus of the classroom experience, it is unlikely that clickers will work well for you.” Explore the world of clickers as a strategy for active involvement. What are they? Carnegie Mellon. link How to use them? Douglas Duncan. University of Colorado. link

“One must learn by doing the thing, for though you think you know it– you have no certainty until you try.” Sophocles, 5th c. B.C.

“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I learn.” Benjamin Franklin

One of the goals of this Guidelines website is to get academics to share and so save time and explore new approaches Thus I strongly recommend the ablconnect website coming out of Harvard, Yale, MIT, MassBay community college and Cornell. Link The focus is active learning with many great examples some of which are included in the Discipline Specific Exemplars section in this site.


Online Resources

Active Learning. Dee Fink. University of Oklahoma. link

Classroom Structures which Encourage Student Participation.   link

Just-in-Time Teaching in Biology: Creating an Active Learner Classroom Using the Internet. Kathleen Marrs & Gregor Novak. Cell Biol Educ 3(1) 49-61 Indiana University. link
NB These Life Science links take a while to open up but they are superb.

There is even a journal on Active learning in Higher Education! link 

Points of View: Lectures: Can’t Learn with Them, Can’t Learn without Them. Daniel Klionsky. Univerity of Michigan. Cell Biol Educ 3(4): 204-211 2004. link

Active Learning Classrooms in biology. Description of the initiative at the University of Minnesota. Shows a wonderful learning space that encourages active learning, if you can afford it! (Guideline 1) and encourages dialogue (Guideline 7).link There is also a great  four minute video of the biology classroom in action opened from this page.