Active learning (sometimes called student-centered learning) refers to a host of instructional methods that focus on building skills, knowledge, classroom community, and critical thinking abilities.

The term “active learning” is a broad oneperhaps too broad — because it can technically refer to almost any classroom activity that engages students in something other than passive listening.

However, the most successful active learning generally involves what are called “higher order thinking tasks,” which include asking students to synthesize, analyze, and evaluate new material alongside their current understanding and to be reflective about what they’re learning.1 Ideally, active learning also engages students in multiple low-stakes assessments so that what they have learned and what is still unclear becomes apparent both to the student and to the teacher. This information can be used to guide the planning of further instruction.

Additionally, using active learning can:

  • Provide instructors with a greater number of tools and approaches for engaging students with course content (and, therefore, engaging students with a wide variety of learning styles)

  • Give students a chance to develop a more personal connection to the content and, thus, increase motivation

  • Foster a deeper sense of community between the students and professor and between the students themselves

  • Facilitate more opportunities for critical thinking

On this site, you’ll find resources for collaborative problem solving, class discussions, debates, role playing, reflective activities, teaching with games, peer-to-peer instruction, and writing-to-learn. In the “Discipline-Specific Activities” section, you’ll find activities developed by our Active Learning Seminar faculty participants who developed in-class activities, assignments, and assessment models for their own classrooms. We have also included sections which highlight some of the activities that we have developed for the Center for Teaching and Learning’s hybrid seminar for faculty, some ideas for using active learning in large classrooms, some ways to help students to use technology actively, and some ideas about how to make lectures more active.

We have selected many of these activities not only so that students can actively participate in their own learning, but also because these activities have helped us to build a more supportive and equitable classroom in which more students are encouraged to get to know one another, to participate, and to learn in multiple ways. We find that creating a supportive, caring, equitable, and transparent approach is as critical to the success of an active learning pedagogy as it is to any other pedagogical approach.

You’ll also find some links to research about active learning in our annotated bibliography, and links to our slides and worksheets from the Center for Teaching and Learning’s professional development events that have centered active learning

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Want to discuss how best to implement active learning strategies? Trying to plan an active learning professional development session for the instructors in your department? The staff at Baruch’s Center for Teaching and Learning would love to meet with you in person, over e-mail, or via Skype. Please contact us at ctl@baruch.cuny.edu to set up an appointment.

  1. Bonwell, Charles C., and James A. Eison. Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. Washington D.C.: N.p., 1991. Web. 2 May 2018