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Designing Tasks to Promote Active Learning

active_learner “Active learning” is an umbrella term for instructional methods that require psychological engagement on behalf of the learner beyond passive listening, and provide opportunity for active cognitive processing that leads to the development of new knowledge and skills. In practice, this means designing activities that allow students to engage with course content in ways that align with course learning goals. This may include a strategy as simple as having students discuss important concepts during class, or as in-depth as designing a course entirely structured around students solving realistic and meaningful problems. Regardless of the specific strategy, the purpose of active learning is to move beyond the information-delivery model of education, and place emphasis on learners constructing their own meaning by engaging in relevant tasks.

Designing tasks that promote meaningful learning requires a thorough understanding of the students in a given course, as well as a careful analysis of course learning objectives. Although every course requires separate analysis before designing and integrating tasks, it’s worth reviewing several general strategies that may be useful across a range of situations. The remainder of this web page (see menu links above) describes some strategies, and provides links to peer reviewed literature and other helpful web sites related to active learning.