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Active Learning Techniques*


  1. WHAT'S FUZZY - 10 minutes before the end of class, ask "what's fuzzy?" Allow verbal responses that are addressed immediately, and collect written responses from which you choose 1 to start the next class.
  2. ONE MINUTE PAPERS - in the last 10-15 minutes of class, ask the following questions, "the most imp thing that you have learned today?," "1-2 imp questions that have regarding the lecture?," "what subject would you like to know more about?" (can also ask questions regarding the lecture or chapter) Have students write down answers, collect-can be used to start the next class lecture, etc.
  3. CLARIFICATION PAUSES - through out the lecture, especially after an important point. STOP and let the point sink in, then ask if anyone needs clarification. It is helpful to circulate the room while you are waiting for responses, this will help students who generally feel uncomfortable asking questions.
  4. STUDENT SUMMARY OF ANOTHER'S ANSWER - after one student has volunteered the answer to a question, have another student summarize that answer and then elaborate/add anything that they can think of.
  5. FISH BOWL - students are given index cards to write down 1-2 questions about the material covered/practical applications of…Are put in "fishbowl" towards the end of class, instructor picks a couple to discuss either then or to begin to next class.
  6. FOCUSED LISTING - use as a brainstorming technique to generate definitions/ descriptions of topics. Ask students to take 3-5 minutes and list words or phrases that describe concept *can be used to generate class discussion or then have students form groups to compare lists and form the best overall description of topic.
  7. STAGE SETTING - provide your students with a set of questions at the beginning of class with the instructions that they must listen for the answers within the following lecture. These questions/answers can then be used in numerous ways if desired.
  8. STAGE SETTING II - before you start a new topic, have students take 3-4 minutes and write down everything that they know about the topic to that point. You can have a few students share their ideas as a way to lead into the discussion.
  9. MINI-CASES - give real life application of material in the form of a problem/scenario/controversy, can have individuals or groups problem-solve (or individual and then group to help assess learning).
  10. VISIONING & FUTURING - real life application of material, have either individual or groups take 5-10 minutes to imagine 10-20 years from now and how the topic might change, be affected, etc for future generations.
  11. PICTURE-MAKING - idea of principles through illustrations. Can divide into groups or keep as individuals, afterwards instructor should pick a couple to discuss why the picture represents the topic or issue.
  12. RECALLING PRIOR MATERIAL - at the beginning of class take 3-5 minutes and have students brainstorm and write down the most important concepts from the previous class lecture, or the 3 most important points of that day's assigned readings.
  13. FINGER SIGNALS/FLASH CARDS - used to immediately test students' comprehension of material. Instructor asks questions (can have yes/no or multiple choice answers), and students respond with finger signals (can have hold in front of torso so no copying). In large classes can have students make up their own cardboard signs with answers (A-D, yes/no) to keep throughout the semester. Not for graded response but allows instructor to see problems with material at a glance and keeps the students involved in the topic-also can have students stand up to answer and get them an opportunity to be out of seats and stretch.
  14. WWW.WEB.CENTRE.EDU/ECONED/PAGES/ACTIVE - various games and group activities centered around topics in economics.
  15. EVERYDAY PHENOMENA - short activity, have students take 2-4 minutes to make up a question or 2 about everyday phenomena that could be answered using the material covered that day/by that chapter, etc. Can add incentive by stating that you will be using some of these questions on the test (can offer extra credit to those students whose questions are used).
  16. GOAL RANKING/MATCHING - use on the 1st or 2nd day of class, have students list a few learning goals that they hope to achieve through the course, and rank them in order of importance. Instructor should collect to get an idea of how they compare to the instructor's own goals.
  17. THINK, PAIR, SHARE - pose a question to the class, have students think of an answer and write it down. Have students form pairs and discuss responses - randomly call on a few students to share their answers.
  18. GUIDED LECTURE - have students listen to a 20-25 minute lecture without taking notes. When the lecture is complete, have students take 5 minutes to write down what they remember as the most important points. Form groups and have students take 10-15 minutes sharing, elaborating, and posing any questions that they have on the concepts covered.
  19. NOTE TAKING PAIRS - pause periodically during your lecture, take three/five minutes to have students pair up, compare their notes, and highlight the important points.
  20. TEAM TROUBLESHOOTING - have students form groups of 3-4, pose a question or problem-ask teams to troubleshoot for 5 minutes and write down their ideas. Stop and collect the papers-use to lead a discussion on an analysis of the issue.
  21. NAME YOUR OWN POISON - announce at the beginning of class that you will be giving a pop quiz in the last 10 minutes of class on the material covered. 15 minutes before the end, form teams of 3-4, and have each team make up one quiz question. Collect questions and give them a first question that you have prepared, select 1-2 more from their responses.
  22. ROUNDTABLE - have students form groups and take out 1 pen/sheet of paper per group. Instructor poses questions (different questions or a couple with multiple answers), students take turns stating their answer and writing it down, then pass paper to the person on their left-students can "pass" anytime after the first round. Groups stop when time is called.
  23. SEND A PROBLEM - students form groups and each member generates a question on material/social issue/etc and writes it on an index card. Each question is asked to all members of the group until there is a consensus reached regarding the correct answer, which is then written down on the other side of the index cards. Each group sends the question cards to another group. The next group reads each question one at a time and discusses them. If they all agree on the answer, they turn the card over to see if they agree with the 1st group; if so, they proceed to the next question, if not, they write their answer down as an alternative. Once all cards are back to the original groups, discussion of alternative answers, etc is used to clarify material.
  24. DRILL-REVIEW PAIRS - four students are grouped together as two pairs. Each pair is given 2 problems/questions to solve. Students are assigned the role of the explainer (gives step-by-step instructions on how to do problem) and an accuracy checker (verifies correctness of methodology used to solve problem). After 1st problem/question is completed, students switch roles for the 2nd problem. After both are complete both pairs re-group and explain their problems and solutions with each other until a consensus is reached.
  25. PRACTICE TEST - instructor administers a quiz/test and has students form groups to discuss, complete, and score. Instructor gives the correct answers, has groups report scores, and then discusses problem questions. Give the actual test/quiz within the following couple class periods and grade ind score for credit.
  26. SCAVENGER HUNT - instructor gives out a paper with 5-10 questions. Students must go around the room and find others that can answer those questions (write down names and answers on sheet). Activity can be used as a "get to know you" game or to test material.
  27. CONCENTRIC CIRCLE - use smaller groups within a larger group circle to start discussion of topic, then reverse, each circle should have questions or comments about others, helps to generate discussion.
  28. PHILLIPS 66 - six people share opinions for six minutes, then the remainder of the class and the instructor can comment or discuss for 5/10 minutes.
  29. PANEL DISCUSSIONS/DEBATES - self-explanatory, can assign for entire class or separate into smaller groups and have the remainder of the class be the judges.
  30. ROLE-PLAYING EXERCISES - self-explanatory, can choose certain time periods, or issues with varying viewpoints.
  31. JEOPARDY STYLE - can be used for review sessions or to quiz assigned readings, can have students or instructor generate the questions. Choose first to answer by show of hands or have them say their name (without screaming) if they would like to answer, can offer bonus points if so choose.
  32. EXPLAINING WRITTEN MATERIAL - instructor hands out a paragraph or article that includes complex concepts/terms, one member of each pair should explain each idea/step to the other. The explainer's partner should ask for clarification if anything is unclear and may give hints but is not to take over the job of explaining. Have one student describe to their partner one of the terms from the reading that is listed on the board, the other must attempt to identify the term being described. Have the students work for several minutes in this way, stop them, call on one or more pairs to summarize their work, and then have the students continue with the roles reversed.
  33. THINKING ALOUD PAIR PROBLEM SOLVING (TAPPS) - students are paired and given a series of problems. The two students are given specific roles that switch with each problem: Problem Solver and Listener. The problem solver reads the problem aloud and talks through the solution to the problem. The listener follows all of the problem solver's steps and catches any errors that occur. For the listener to be effective, he or she must also understand the reasoning process behind the steps. This may require the listener to ask questions if the problem solver's thought process becomes unclear. The questions asked, however, should not guide the problem solver to a solution nor should they explicitly highlight a specific error except to comment that an error has been made.
  34. MATCH-UP EXERCISE - give each student a piece of information that requires a 2nd or 3rd piece to make complete sense. Have them walk around the room and to find the classmate(s) that have the complementary information-then have each pair/group present to the rest of the class how their information matches*ex: math-word problems w/equational setup, science-theory w/hypothesis.
  35. CONCEPT MAPS - have students draw/diagram a map connecting the major topic of focus with what they consider its most important features/other ideas and concepts that they have learned/etc-can use for class discussion or group work.
  36. MINUTES - one student per class is chosen to take "minutes" of that class period. They must present this information at the beginning of the next class as a quick review/quiz/discussion.
  38. CLASS ENCYCLOPEDIA - select a topic from the entire set of course concerns/issues, and have each student (or form pairs) pick one and write "encyclopedia entries" that they imagined could be used for next year's class. Can be presented, etc.
  39. DAILY JOURNAL - similar to one-minute papers, but can do in class or as homework to be discussed-can ask more in-depth questions or topics that require a valuative response.
  40. MICROTHEMES - short writing assignments that encourage students to invest substantial study time prior to discussing ideas with other students. The goal can be less the writing and more the ability for the student to be able to present their research and ideas to the class. 4 basic categories:
    a) summary-writing--students are asked to give a summary of a reading assignment, with understanding of both structure and primary/secondary points of reading
    b) thesis-supported--provide statement that has a clear choice between 2 opposing viewpoints. Students asked to take one viewpoint and provide supporting evidence for that perspective
    c) data-provided--students are given a series of related statements and asked to draw a conclusion. Helps them arrange data in a logical order and generate a general statement from what they have induced
    d) quandary-posing--conceptual question is asked and students compose a written response.
  41. ACADEMIC CONTROVERSY - choose a set of topics on which pro/con positions can be taken. Assign students into groups of 4-put into 2 pairs, each arguing one side of the issue. Have them reach a consensus and write or present a group report. *options-Allow them time to research in the library, have each pair present their argument in class to get others input-then write the group report, can have the pairs switch sides of the argument to research the opposing view, etc. No real time constraints on this technique-can be completed in a class period or over the length of a semester.
  42. REACTION SHEETS - used in beginning of semester or to start a new chapter/subject matter. Have students write down, and then discuss, their reactions to the topics covered-those new to them, ones they question, and those that "hit home," helps to generate discussion.
  43. GUIDED RECIPROCAL PEER QUESTIONING - faculty conducts a brief (10 - 20 min) lecture on a topic area. Students are then given a generic set of question stems. Students work individually to form questions based on the material-they do not have to be able to answer the questions that they pose. Use these to form groups for discussion or to lead class discussion. Some example question stems:
    -What is the main idea of…?
    -What if…?
    -How does…affect…?
    -Explain why/how…?
    -What conclusions can I draw about…?
    -What is the difference between…?
    -How would I use…to…?
    -What are the strengths and weaknesses of…?
    -What is the meaning of…?
    -Why is…happening?
    -What would happen if…?
    -What is another way to look at…?
    -What are the implications of…?
    -Why is…important?
    -What is the solution to the problem of…?
    -What is the best…and why?
    -How does…apply to everyday life?
  44. JIGSAW - form groups and assign each group part of a chapter/different articles, etc. Each group presents their part to the remainder of the class so that the entirety of the information has been covered. Professor can lead a question and answer session at the end if desired.
  45. DYADIC ESSAY CONFRONTATION - students are given a reading assignment and asked to write a question that integrates this and earlier material. They respond by writing on a separate sheet of paper a one-page "model" answer. Students are paired in the next class period, exchange questions, and write a one page response to the partner's question. The students exchange their one-page model answers and their in-class writing. After reading their partner's in-class and model answers, the pair compare and contrast the model and in-class answers.
  46. ONE SENTENCE SUMMARIES - have students answer these questions on a specific topic in one long grammatical sentence: Who/What, When, Where, Why, How?
  47. LETTERS HOME - students paraphrase in informal language what they are learning in the form of a letter to parents/friends, etc. Helps students to internalize material by stating it in their own words and also to recognize relationships between the course material and their everyday life.
  48. EMPTY OUTLINES - instructor provides students with an empty or partially completed outline of an in-class lecture or assigned homework reading and gives them limited amount of time to fill in the blank spaces.
  49. MEMORY MATRIX - instructor hands out a two-dimensional diagram, rectangle divided into rows and columns used to organize info and illustrate relationships-row and column headings are given but the cells are left empty for students to fill in information. Can turn in for an individual grade or have students work in groups.
  50. ANALYTIC MEMO - students to write a 1-2 page analysis of a specific problem or issue generally for a specific audience that needs the students analysis to inform decision making.
  51. WORD JOURNAL - requires a 2-part response. First, student will summarize a short text read in a single word, next the student writes a paragraph or two explaining why they chose that particular word to summarize the text.
  52. PROFILE OF ADMIRABLE INDIVIDUAL - have students to write a brief, focused profile of an individual in a field related to course material whom they greatly admire their values, skills, or actions.
  53. QUESTION AND ANSWER PAIRS - have students read an assignment before class and make up 1-2 questions. In class have them pair up and attempt to answer the other's questions. If desired, students can be asked to turn in question and answer summaries.
  54. 3 STEP INTERVIEW - faculty assigns pairs of students a topic/concept. Student A interviews Student B on the topic for a certain number of minutes, then students switch roles. After that period, two pairs of students form a group, and each pair introduces and highlights important points of their concept.
  55. PAIRED ANNOTATIONS - students pair up to learn or review an article/chapter/topic and exchange "double-entry" (includes section for critical points and a section for responses/questions) journals that they have composed. Have them look for similarities and differences in thinking. Together can have students complete a composite annotation that summarizes all the information. Can be turned in or presented.
  56. STUDENT TEACHING - at the beginning of the semester, put the class into groups. Each group takes a turn making up a quiz for the class throughout the semester. Can also have each group do an outside assigned reading and come prepared to teach the material to the rest of the class.
  57. STUDY TEAMS - form long-term groups for students at the beginning of the semester. The primary responsibility is support and assistance in understanding the material-can meet during assigned class times or outside of class. Instructor can utilize primarily as review groups or assign long-term project, study questions, or any variety of activities. Helps to assign roles that can be switched throughout the semester (ex's) recorder, spokesperson, summarizer, checker/corrector, skeptic, organizer/manager, observer, timekeeper, conflict resolver, and liason to other groups or the instructor.
  58. EVALUATION OF OTHERS WORK - instructor gives an assignment and has students hand in 1 copy to the teacher and 1 copy to their "partner." Give a certain amount of time to be graded and then have pairs get together with both corrected copies and discuss-can be used for one assignment or throughout the semester.
  59. STUDENT REPORTS - three different examples used to have students present without taking up as much class time and without the majority of the class in a passive role:
    1) Poster Session: This method reflects a process scientists use to share ideas. Groups present their solutions to a problem in the form of a concept map, an outline, or a poster typical of those found at professional meetings One student is given the task of being the spokesperson while other group members view other groups' posters. They rotate roles so that all have the chance to be spokesperson
    2) Team Rotation: Groups prepare a 10-minute presentation on an experiment they have done, topic or problem. Groups are paired and each group gives the presentation to the other group. The second group responds with questions, asks for clarifications, and comments on the overall quality of the presentation. The groups switch roles and the second group presents its 10-minute report. Groups use the remaining class time to refine and practice their presentations. This process can be repeated with different groups, allowing them to improve and try again. Instructor can walk around to give feedback and general comments.
    3) Three Stay One Stray: The student gains experience by presenting and teaching while the other students gain experience asking probing questions. It is an efficient method since all groups report simultaneously instead of sequentially. One group member from each group is asked to switch into another group. This student presents his group's report to this new group. Again, spokesperson can rotate either per each presentation of report, or on each project throughout the semester.
  60. "HOW TO" PROBLEM - have students describe a solution to a problem, and analyze the relationships between each instruction and write them down step-by-step. Then have students exchange instructions and have their partner attempt to follow them-let partner or class decide if directions are sufficient*especially useful in mathematics, science, and business classes.
  61. CO-OP CARDS - each partner in a pair prepares a set of flashcards with a question/problem on front and correct answer on back. One partner quizzes the other and discusses until the latter answers all the problems correctly. Then have students switch roles.


* I'd like to offer special thanks to our research assistant, Misha Derrig, who is responsible for reseaching and compiling these techniques for us.
Angelo, T. & Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; San Francisco, CA.
McKeachie, W. Ed. (2002) McKeachie's Teaching Tips. Houghton Mifflin Co.; Boston, Massachusetts.
Stein, R. & Hurd, S. (2000) Using Student Teams in the Classroom. Anker Publishing Co.; Bolton, Massachusetts.


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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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