What Are the Different Types of Active Learning Strategies?

G. Wiesen

Different active learning strategies are often designed around the way in which learners are asked to engage with the material that is being presented to them. Pairing and other small group activities are quite common and allow learners to work together and become active with each other. There are also methods designed to target each learner individually, typically through activities that make them begin to identify what they want to gain from a lesson. Case studies and similar types of real world data acquisition methods can also be used as active learning strategies, to make the information more applicable and meaningful.

Active learning activities may include narrative writing.
Active learning activities may include narrative writing.

Small group activities are among the most common active learning strategies, since they allow students to work together on learning new material. One of the most common ways in which this is accomplished is through a "think-pair-share" activity. This typically involves presenting students with new information through a lesson, and being provided with some time to think about a question or other topic regarding what they have learned. Students pair up and share their thoughts and ideas regarding the question that was asked of them; these active learning strategies help students teach each other as they learn.

Participation plays an important role in active learning.
Participation plays an important role in active learning.

There are also individual active learning strategies that are designed to help each student separately engage with what they are being presented with. This can be done in numerous ways, though one of the most common methods is through the creation of a "Know-Want-Learn" (KWL) worksheet. Students are instructed to fold a sheet of paper into thirds, sometimes they can be given larger paper to make this easier and to allow for larger columns. Each third of the page is labeled as "Know," in which students write what they already know about the subject; "Want," which is used for them to write what they want to learn about it; and "Learn," to describe how they want to be able to use what they learn.

Active learning strategies can also include case studies and similar "real world" examples of information for use by students. This helps demonstrate to learners that the information being presented to them is not meant to be isolated and memorized, but is actionable and meaningful in a practical way. Students can be engaged in this process to create their own research and case studies, allowing them to participate in acquiring new knowledge and information. These types of active learning strategies can also help prepare students for the kind of research and work expected of them in higher education, especially in college and graduate school.

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