Why Use Active Learning?

Active learning improves student outcomes

There is a well-established evidence base supporting the use of active learning. The benefits to using such activities are many, including improved critical thinking skills, increased retention and transfer of new information, increased motivation, improved interpersonal skills, and decreased course failure (Prince, 2004).

As one example, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) has examined the engagement experiences of hundreds of thousands of students from over 1600 colleges and universities since 2000. The consistent results of these data show that hands-on, integrative, and collaborative active learning experiences lead to high levels of student achievement and personal development (Kuh, O’Donnell, and Schneider, 2017).

As another example, a comprehensive meta-analysis of 225 science, engineering and mathematics education studies by Freeman et al. (2014) demonstrated that active learning can significantly increase course grades over didactic methods and is particularly effective in small classes of 50 students or fewer. In their analysis, students in courses without active learning were 1.5 times more likely to fail the course than students in courses with active learning.

Students in courses without active learning were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students with active learning. - Active Learning Study by Freeman et al. (2014)

Finally, research reveals a mutual influence between active learning and emotional states. Active learning can positively affect student motivation (Owens, Sadler, Barlow, & Smith-Walters, 2017); in turn, the overall impact of motivation moderates key learning characteristics such as attention and memory consolidation (Cavenagh, 2016).