Why don't we teach the way
Eighty-nine percent of U.S. professors lecture as a mode of instruction.
However, the literature shows that students must do more than just
listen to truly learn.
Active Learning (Bonwell and Eison)
When using active learning students are engaged in more activities
than just listening. They are involved in dialog, debate, writing,
and problem solving, as well as higher-order thinking, e.g., analysis,
Cooperative Learning (Johnson, Johnson,
and Smith) Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small
groups so that students work together to maximize their own and
each other’s learning.
Five essential components must be present for small-group learning
to be truly cooperative:
- clear positive interdependence between students
- face to face interaction
- individual accountability
- emphasize interpersonal and small-group skills
- rocesses must be in place for group review to improve effectiveness
Why should we care?
"… cooperative learning produces higher achievement, more positive
relationships among students, and healthier psychological adjustment
than do competitive or individualistic experiences."
"… active/cooperative methods can increase mechanics course effectiveness
well beyond that obtained in traditional practice."
"… various forms of small-group learning are effective in promoting
greater academic achievement, more favorable attitudes toward learning,
and increased persistence in SMET [science, engineering, mathematics,
technology] courses and programs."
How can I get started?
You can incorporate active learning into your classroom in several
ways, including modification of existing lectures, in-class discussions,
case studies and guided designs.
Try a cooperative learning structure called Think-Pair-Share in
which you pose a question, ask students to think about it, ask students
to discuss their answers in pairs, and then call on students to
share their answers with the class.
What does research indicate?
This paper compares outcomes for an experimental group to those
for students in a traditionally-taught comparison group. The experimental
group outperformed the comparison group on a number of measures.
The pedagogy should be adaptable to any engineering curriculum at
any institution since large classes were used and special classrooms
were not required.
Analysis of multiple research studies demonstrates that various
forms of small-group learning are quite effective in promoting greater
academic achievement, more favorable attitudes toward learning,
and increased persistence in SMET courses and programs. The analysis
supports more widespread implementation of small-group learning
in undergraduate SMET courses.
The graph below shows the fraction of courses achieving a specific
normalized gain on the Force Concept Inventory. Courses using traditional
lectures are shown in red (dark), while courses using interactive
engagement (IE - closely related to active/cooperative learning)
are shown in green (light). This study shows that the use of IE
results in higher conceptual gains than traditional lectures in
almost every course.
How much material can be
covered using ACL?
Experience has shown that courses taught using ACL cover as much
or more material than traditional lecture courses if faculty members
view a student’s learning experience as a system that extends beyond
the classroom. Students in ACL classes grow to accept responsibility
for material they study outside the classroom.
How much time does it take
to adopt ACL?
Faculty can employ ACL by spending a few more hours per week than
they would spend on a traditional lecture course. The amount of
additional time required depends of the magnitude of changes adopted.
Faculty members are encouraged to start with small changes and then
expand their use of ACL.
Cesar Malave and Jim Morgan offer workshops on active/collaborative
learning and student teams in the classroom. They can customize
the length (2-16 hours) and coverage of the workshops to suit your
Here are people you can contact for more information about ACL,
in general, and ACL workshops in particular.