Multipe learning strategies have been developed over the past decades to facilitate a more active (and interactive) learning environment. While many of these strategies possess considerable amounts of overlap, each focuses on a distinct method of learning, and they all differ in their primary emphasis.
The primary categories of these strategies (and those that are used by this website) are outlined below.
The 5E model of active learning relies on a series of steps (each conveniently starting with E) to get the students excited about learning. It is well utilized in a laboratory setting, but can also be incorporated into the classroom.
The steps are as follows:
Engage: The instructor should gauge the prior knowledge of the class, and design the activity accordingly. This will ensure that the activity is accessible to the students, but also challenges them in a field they find exciting. This step can also incorporate a ‘catch’ to pique the students’ interest.
Explore: This is a student centric phase, in which students complete a lab activity, questionnaire, or other classroom activity that investigates the topic of the activity.
Explain: Students are asked to explain the activity – either to each other, other groups, or the instructor. This is an very engaging part of the activity, and also provides an means to assess the students interest in, and performance of the activity. This also provides a means to assess the students’ speaking skills.
Elaborate: This can be a follow up to the ‘Explain’ phase of the activity. Once they have provided their explanation (whether formally or informally), the students’ peers and the instructor provide questions or feedback to guide further exploration of the topic. This facilitates the exercise of both research and critical thinking skills.
Evaluate: This phase can be reciprocal. The instructor provides final feedback to the students, and the students evaluate the activity for its ability to provide them with an interesting learning experience, a means to research a new topic, and practice at public speaking.
Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL)
This activity is designed to convey lessons in scientific inquiry and collaborative learning. Small groups of students (typically 3-5) are supplied with data or information and asked to complete a set of leading questions, which intentionally guide them to conclusions about the material or data. Individuals in the group are assigned a role (manager, recorder, spokesperson, etc), and work as a team to solve the problem and generate conclusions.
This activity can be set up to follow scientific processes (questioning, hypothesis generation, analysis, conclusions), but any model of inquiry works with this model.
This tool encourages class attendance and engagement, while also providing an immediate and simple way to assess the students’ level of understanding. Questions, which are typically on slides inserted throughout the lecture, are posed and students are given a few seconds to respond. Students can respond by WiFi activated ‘clickers’, which can be purchased, however most applications allow the use of cell phones or laptops.
For a free (no technology) version of this exercise, students can be given colored cards. Questions should be multiple choice, with each color card representing a possible answer.
The goal of this exercise is to create a cognitive conflict that requires students to examine their understanding and think critically about information given to them. After correct information is presented, the instructor presents a short lecture that intentionally contains wrong information. Students are asked to identify the incorrect material and explain the reasoning for their critique.