Why Active Learning

Active learning is defined as “Any instructional method that engages students in the learning process … [it] requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing” (Prince, 2004, p.233, citing Bonwell and Eison 1991).

Active learning typically refers to any learning and teaching method, approach or strategy that encourages students to actively engage with the learning process. Typically, this involves an element of ‘deep learning’ where students are motivated to make sense of new information and relate it to what they already know, rather than superficial or ‘surface learning’ where they memorise information in atomistic ways to regurgitate for the sole purpose of assessment. Students engaged in active learning will construct and use knowledge to solve authentic problems relevant to real challenges they will face in the workplace.

This has implications for the role of staff who are facilitators of learning (‘guide on the side’) as opposed to transmitting information (‘sage on the stage’). Teaching as facilitating can be a very enriching approach and requires extra emphasis on how to support and scaffold student learning to lead students through processes of inquiry and investigation as well as presenting their findings.

At UofG, active learning is central to the 2021-25 learning and teaching strategy, as recognised in the three pillars:

  1. Student-centred, active learning: Blended learning (appropriate integration of face to face and online learning modes) is a key part of active approaches and provides students with flexibility to engage independently as well as collaboratively in their studies.
  2. Transforming curricula and assessment: Curricula are being transformed to help prepare students for societal and environmental challenges, including sustainability and the need for interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving.
  3. Professional and skills development for students: In the process of engaging in active learning, students will develop a range of transferable, professional skills or graduate attributes such as teamworking, communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving, etc.

This resource seeks to provide staff with helpful information on active learning strategies and methods, illustrated through good practice case studies from educators across UofG.

Active Learning Reading List (Zotero)

YouTube Playlist