Active lectures

Active involvement of students during a lecture will increase the engagement of the students and the learning results.
But this is not enough for a good test result:

  1. Students should study learning material, finish relevant assignments discuss with each other and the teacher and practice with test questions.
  2. The test should match with the learning activities  and the objectives of the teacher.

A very practical list of suggestions:

  • Teacher-centered active learning strategies- activities in larger lectures
  • Studnet-centered active learning strategies
  • Very short bibliography on active learning



Teacher-centered active learning strategies – activities in large lectures

Read notes

  • Ask students to look through their notes, to fill the gaps and to make sure they understand.

Write down one or two questions

  • At some point during the lecture, ask students to write down one or two questions they have up to that point in the lecture. Then get the students to ask their neighbours their questions until they have a satisfactory answer.

Tackle a problem

  • Put a problem or a case on the overhead projector. Get students to work on it on their own for a few minutes. Then you can either get the class to work it out together or students share with their neighbours.


  • Students can do a number of tasks this way. You can ask them to discuss a question, to solve a problem, to share their experience. Students will work on their own for the first one or two minutes, then share with their someone sitting next to them. Some students can then report back to the class.

Silent reflection

  • Ask students to take 3 minutes to think about what you have dealt with so far.

Five-minute entry

  •  At the start of each class, ask students to write for 5 minutes in response to a question dealing with the assigned readings.


  • With five minutes left in the class, ask students to take out a piece of paper and_ answer two questions: What is one thing you have learned from today’s class? and What is one question you have at this time?


Student-centered active learning strategies


  • This activity can be done with the whole class or in small groups. Write down a problem or question on a flipchart or the board. Ask students to call out all ideas. Anything is valid and is recorded. Once contributions have stopped, go through the list with the students and edit to eliminate duplications, delete `impossible’ ideas, or sequence, rank and number them.

Buzz groups /small groups

3 basic ‘rules’ for any small group activity:

  •  instructions must be dear, simple and goal-oriented
  • give students a set amount of time to work on the task
  • groups must appoint a recorder and write down the results of the group to report back to the class (this ensure accountability)

Role playing/ simulation

  • This strategy requires students to place themselves in a situation or take a committed position (not necessarily the one they would choose) on an issue in the course.
  • For example, you can simulate a parliamentary commission on a controversial or pending piece of legislation, then assign interest , lobby or citizen groups to students to represent.


  • Students working in pairs or small groups are given a proposition and a position (either for or against). They work in their groups for about ten minutes (depending on the proposition) to create their arguments.
  • Students on one side of the debate then have 5 minutes to present their arguments.
  • The other side has 3 minutes to revise their arguments if they need to; these students then have 5 minutes to present their arguments, including any rebuttal arguments;
  • Students from the first side then have 3 minutes to prepare a rebuttal and 2 minutes to present it.
  • A variant of the debate, used more regularly in the law school context, is the moot. In this case, only one side has a rebuttal, and some students can sit as the panel of judges, having to render a derision after arguments have been presented.


  • Jigsaw is one of many cooperative learning strategies; with jigsaw, each student works on one part of a learning task and then works collaboratively with a group of other students to combine the various parts and complete the activity. Jigsaw is useful when you are dealing with a series of concepts for students to learn. Jigsaw encourages mutual interdependence of group members, as well as individual accountability because each student must pay attention to what is going on in the ‘expert’ group in order to explain it to their ‘home’ group.
  • Students form core groups of four to five members. Each member of the group is
  • assigned a number from 1 to 4/5.
  • Then students form expert learning groups, comprising all members of core groups with the same number (i.e. all l’s, all 2’s, etc..). Each learning group discusses its part of the assignment.
  • Students then return to their core group with their ‘expertise’ and contribute to the completion of the problem by sharing what they learned in the expert group.

Very short bibliography on active learning!

  1. Bonwell, C.C. & Eison, J.A., Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.1 (Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development, 1991).
  2. Bonwell, C., “Building a supportive climate for active lemming” (1996) 6:1 The National Teaching and Learning Forum 4-7.
  3. Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F., “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (1987) 39:7 AAHE Bulletin 3-7.
  4. Gibbs, G., Teaching More Students 2: Lecturing to More Students (Oxford: The Polytechnics & Colleges Funding Council, 1992).
  5. Gibbs, G.. & Jenkins, A. (eds), Teaching Large Classes in Higher Education: How to Maintain Quality with Reduced Resources (London: Kogan Page, 1992).
  6. Gross Davis, B., Tools for Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1993).
  7. Hativa, N. Teaching for Effective Learning in Higher Education (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000).
  8. Johnston, S. & Cooper, J., “Quick-thinks: Active-thinking tasks in lecture classes and televised instruction” (1997) 8:1 Cooperative Learning and College Teaching 2-6.
  9. Le Brun, M. & Johnstone, R., The Quiet Revolution: Improving Student Learning in Law (Sydney: The Law Book Company, 1994).
  10. Weimer, M.G. (ed), Teaching Large Classes Well. New Directions for Teaching and Learning (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 1987)


Source is unknown

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.