Random Thoughts on Instructional Design
Meyers and Jones (1993) wrote “Active learning involves providing opportunities for students to meaningfully talk and listen, write, read, and reflect on the content, ideas, issues, and concerns of an academic subject.” While this statement was made in the early 1990s, the focus on active learning in higher education persists.
The move to active learning requires change on the part of both the instructor and student.
Applying active learning techniques within a course should support the overall instructional goals and learning objectives for that course. It is important to note that an instructor can expect to spend more time in preparation for a course employing active learning strategies. As such, a phased approach to integrating active learning into the course curriculum is highly recommended.
It is important to note that active learning is not the proverbial “magic bullet.” Both the instructor and the students need to buy in to this instructional approach. The Instructor needs to feel comfortable relinquishing some of the control over student’s learning to the students. Students need to see the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and be ready to put the work into preparing for class and actively participate in there own learning.
The challenge of designing instruction is to elevate the students’ learning beyond knowledge acquisition, level 1 in Bloom’s Taxonomy. While this is indeed a challenge, the greater challenge is to move beyond the application phase, level 3 in Bloom’s Taxonomy, and strive to elevate student learning to levels 4 – 6.
When instruction is delivered strictly through passive lecture, moving student’s knowledge beyond application phase is often difficult. Incorporating active learning techniques within a lecture, however, has the potential to increase the students ability to assimilate and synthesize the material in a way that transforms the student’s knowledge, behaviors, and attitudes for the long-term. In order for active learning techniques to be successful, the technique(s) being implemented within the course should be modeled by the instructor and guidelines for engaging in such activities should be provided to the students.
The following are a list of active learning techniques in the broadest sense. Each technique can be implemented with a variety of activity types, not listed as well. Click on the tabs for additional information.