Teacher’s Center

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April, 2011 Blog - Active Learning in Higher Education

For those who may be working on an advanced degree, you might be aware of how colleges and universities are implementing active learning strategies into their instruction. But for those of us who finished our Masters degrees “back in the day” you might be amazed at how extensively many colleges and universities have embraced the methodology and in departments other than education. To be sure, the majority of classes in higher education still rely heavily on the one-way lecture method to present information to the largest number of people. However, many higher education institutions have embraced the concept in different subject areas and are evangelizing the process. There’s even an international publication on the subject, Active Learning in Higher Education.


In my December blog I introduced you to some great websites that featured many different applications of active learning strategies for different grade levels. In that article I mentioned the work at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Since then I have discovered several other universities that have set up great online resources on active learning.


The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan has a great list entitled Teaching Strategies: Active and Collaborative Learning featuring several different universities and organizations engaged in active learning. Here is a rundown on several of the items featured:

  • Active Learning in Large Classes—Deborah Ball is Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan. At “Engaging Students in the Classroom and Beyond” a series of videos demonstrate how faculty stimulates student engagement in their courses using active learning strategies.
  • Professional Development Module on Active Learning from the Texas Collaborative for Teaching Excellence, this link provides a summary of research and resources pertaining to active learning including specific strategies for use in the humanities, business/economics, mathematics and the sciences.
  • Do you think lectures are the antithesis of active learning? They don’t have to be. Two instructors at Cal State University have put together an extensive list of active learning techniques which can be used to supplement, rather than replace lectures.
  • Along the same topic of lectures and active learning, check out the Interactive Lectures at the “Pedagogy in Action” website from the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, Minnesota.

Perhaps your alma mater is more engaged with active learning strategies than when you were on college. You might consider checking out what is going on there and see if there are some courses you can take (or teach!) on active learning. Next month, I’ll present you with ideas on why teaching through active learning will help prepare your students for the 21st century economy.


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