Active Learning Annotated Bibliography

Active Learning Annotated Bibliography

This annotated bibliography features sources that describe research, strategies, and related interesting information about active learning. We contribute to this resource continually. If you know of an interesting source from your own field to contribute, we would love for you to share it with us!

Brame, Cynthia J. “Flipping the Classroom.” Vanderbilt University. Center for Teaching. 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2016. Brame describes the key differences between the “traditional” model of a classroom and a flipped classroom noting that in a flipped classroom, students first gain exposure to new concepts outside of class and then use class time to assimilate new knowledge and higher-order concepts through debate, discussion, and problem-solving. This piece gives some concrete strategies for class flipping framing them through some of the potential benefits to students, which include giving students prior exposure to key concepts, encouraging preparation, providing a mechanism to assess student understanding, and a potential opportunity for greater student engagement.

Braun, Benjamin, et al. “Active Learning Series, 2015.” American Mathematical Society: On Teaching and Learning Mathematics. American Mathematical Society. August 27, 2019.
In response to the American Mathematical Society’s call to use active learning, these authors produced a series of six blog posts exploring some common active learning exercises in mathematics and detail the benefits that students and instructors can receive from using such techniques. Common concerns are mentioned along with solutions. There are active learning exercises for a mathematics classroom and these authors provide insightful responses to concerns that instructors may have with initiating the use of active learning.

Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences. Active Learning in Post-Secondary Mathematics Education. Washington DC, 2016.
This is a statement affirming the use of active learning in post-secondary mathematics education, issued by the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences, which houses seventeen national professional societies.These seventeen organizations all “call on institutions of higher education, mathematics departments and the mathematics faculty, public policy-makers, and funding agencies to invest time and resources to ensure that effective active learning is incorporated into post-secondary mathematics classrooms.” This statement also provides a brief overview of the reasons to use active learning, benefits of active learning, and ways to implement active learning. Here, you can find a pdf version of the Active Learning in Post-Secondary Mathematics Education statement.

Cooper, Melanie M. “Cooperative learning: An approach for large enrollment courses.” Journal of Chemistry Education, vol 72, issue 2, 1995, 162-164.
Cooper provides a detailed overview of activities, benefits, concerns and suggestions in employing collaboration between students via group work at the college level to enhance learning. The overlap between collaborative and active learning highlights the importance of using group work when possible to facilitate active learning in a classroom. This paper provides an in-depth overview of the aspects of group work that instructors should keep in mind along with tips on what instructors can do to prepare for the use of group work. For example, it is suggested that groups include 2 to 4 students and to have students work difficult multi-step problems that students typically have trouble with.

Faust, Jennifer L., and Donald R. Paulson. “Active learning in the college classroom.” Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, vol. 9, issue 2, 1998, pp. 3-24.
These authors describe a variety of active learning exercises that can be used in conjunction with lecture. Although these activities are not specific to mathematics, some of them can be adapted to a math lesson. The authors also address some common initial concerns that instructors may have along with a brief overview of the benefits of employing active learning based on their own research. There are various categories of exercises geared towards individual student work, paired work, and group work as well as questioning and feedback techniques that instructors can employ during class time. All these exercises are nicely organized within each category of exercises making it easier for instructors to select an appropriate activity.

Mazur, Eric. “Assessment: The Silent Killer of Learning.” Dudley Herschbach Teacher/Scientist Lecture. Derek Bok Center, Boston, MA. 29 Oct. 2013. Lecture.
In this interactive lecture, Eric Mazur warns that assessment (in the way that it’s traditionally conceived) is the antithesis of learning because it doesn’t model the skill of “real-world” problem solving in which there’s a known outcome (i.e. make more money, encourage growth, attract people to the business, increase customer satisfaction) and an unknown path to that outcome, whereas most textbook problems and assessments ask students to demonstrate how known procedures (i.e. a formula, for example) lead to an unknown (to the student) outcome. He recommends that we reconfigure assessment so that it drives our instructional approach by first (re)conceptualizing our desired outcomes, then deciding on how we will evaluate / assess the achievement of those outcomes, and then deciding on teaching strategies.

—. “Eric Mazur Shows Interactive Teaching.” Harvard University. Lecture.
Eric Mazur demonstrates a few active learning techniques in this short video of a large lecture class: “just in time” teaching (where the instructor designs an activity to gauge the students’ gaps in understanding, and then fills those gaps with teaching, rather than planning the content out in advance and delivering that content no matter the outcome), and think-pair-share (where students have individual time to consider a problem, time to share and work out their questions in groups or pairs that are sometimes facilitated or interrupted by the instructor, and time to voice their ideas and hear feedback).

Michael, Joel. “Where’s the Evidence That Active Learning Works?” Advances in Physiology Education vol. 30, issue 4, 2006, pp. 159-167. Print.
In addition to distilling how and why a student-centered, active learning pedagogical approach is effective, this article also notes some of the challenges of conducting educational research that may be unfamiliar to those outside of the field. This is important because it points to the difficulties of measuring learning.

Paulston, Donald R., and Jennifer L. Faust. “Active and Cooperative Learning.” California State University. California State University Department of Chemistry and Biology. N.p., 2016. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.
This article outlines techniques that an instructor can incorporate to support active learning. While not a refutation of the lecture format, this piece argues that lectures (and all classes) can benefit from the incorporation of more active learning techniques. The techniques are grouped into 6 categories: individual exercises, question and answer, immediate feedback, critical thinking, share-pair, and cooperative learning. Each section describes 3-7 in-class activities to engage students.

Prince, Michael. “Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research.” Journal of Engineering Education. vol. 93, issue 3, 2004, pp. 223-231. Print.
This study defines and examines a variety of active learning approaches in the teaching of engineering (active learning, collaborative learning, cooperative learning, and problem-based learning). It discusses some of the important issues to consider when reading research about active learning: not all active learning is the same, learning that is identified as “active” can be misleadingly labeled, and the results can be difficult to quantify. However, despite this (and despite the fact that active learning is not an educational panacea), the author finds that interjecting short activities and “check ins” into traditional lectures, collaborative approaches, and the premise that guides cooperative learning generally result in greater learning outcomes (as evidenced by material retention and test scores) for engineering students.

University of Minnesota. Inside Active Learning Classrooms. N.p., 2010. YouTube.
This video shows what an active learning classroom (can) look(s) like. It shows how students actually use the space, and we hear from students and an instructor about the experiences that they’ve had and how it has changed their relationship to learning and teaching. There’s also this video made by the same university that voices many of the same kinds of things.