Creating the Active Classroom 101

Promoting an active classroom doesn’t require a lot of major changes to your current teaching style. What it does require is incorporating simple engagement techniques that get your students up, moving, and interacting with your classroom content. “Students generally have difficulty connecting abstract knowledge with real-life applications” (Glaser & Struss, 1967). Providing your students with opportunities to ground newly learned content into real-life applications helps retain and personalize the content.

Research shows that students learn best when thinking, reflecting, and sharing with their peers. Set up and organize your classroom in a way that facilitates small group work – pair students in groups of 2’s, 3’s, or 4’s during your lecture sections. Create a collegial and welcoming atmosphere that encourages discussion (Berry & Sharp, 1999; Nicol & Boyle, 2003).

Here are some methods that are quick and easy to implement in your classroom:

  1. Use Clickers in the classroom – A clicker is a device that allows students to anonymously select answers to poll question and provides the professor with statistics on how many students get the answer correct or wrong .Read more about clickers here.
  2. Conduct Think-Pair-Share sessions – At intervals in your lecture, ask students to individually reflect on a concept or idea that you just presented. Then have students work in pairs to share their ideas or thoughts. Have the pairs present to the whole the class their findings. Read more about Think-Pair-Share here.
  3. Conduct Affinity diagram activity – Use an affinity diagram activity when you want students to work together to organize, group, and find relationships among data, ideas, and issues.  Read more about affinity exercise here.
  4. Use the Socratic methodA simple technique where the professor does not give answers, but rather asks a series of guided, probing questions that students discuss to reason through the answer(s).Read more about the Socratic method here.