Active Learning


Active learning includes any type of instructional strategy that goes beyond the traditional lecture and requiring students to memorize information. Active learning puts an emphasis on developing the students’ conceptual understanding by engaging students in activities that promote higher-order thinking, such as discussing, debating, writing, and creating. There are no limitations to active learning, as activities can take place in face-to-face or online classrooms and be completed in large or small groups or individually.

  • The following classrooms on WCU’s campus have been designed to facilitate active learning and will be available Spring 2019: 
    Anderson: 215, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308 
    BPMC: 205, 310, 311, 316, 321 
    Recitation: 102, 102a, 311 

Possible Instructional Uses:

  • Utilize a student response system to quickly poll students and gauge understanding 
  • Incorporate multiple student self-checks in video lectures 
  • Instruct students to summarize course material by way of a video, PowerPoint, infographic, or any other form of media
  • Challenge students to create assessment questions that align to module or unit learning objectives 
  • Have students create a concept map to visually show relationships between course concepts 

WCU Supported Tools:

Additional Tools:

Tips for using Active Learning:

  • Start small. Incorporate short active learning assignments and then advance to longer, more analytical assignments to foster student success (Lumpkin et al., 2015). 
  • Utilize a variety of active learning strategies (Lumpkin et al., 2015). 
  • Students may have an unfavorable reaction towards active learning because the instructor is requiring the students to put in more intellectual effort. Continue to incorporate active learning assignments despite initial student perceptions (Smith & Cardaciotto, 2011). 
  • Be explicit with the students about how the activities/assignments will help them further comprehend the course material by tying the active learning activities back to the learning objectives (Howard & Persky, 2015). 
  • Anticipate roadblocks and revisions to active learning activities. Your first time incorporating active learning into a class or module may not go as planned, but it’s important to reflect on what went well and what can be improved (Howard & Persky, 2015). 


Howard, M. & Persky, A. (2015). Helpful tips for new users of active learning. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 79(4), 46. 
Lumpkin, A., Achen, R., and Dodd, R. (2015). Student perceptions of active learning. College Student Journal, 49, 121-133. 
Smith, C.V., & Cardaciotto, L. (2011). Is active learning like broccoli? Student perceptions of active learning in large lecture classes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 11(1), 53-61.