Introducing Participatory or Active Learning by nye15450


									Introducing Participatory or Active Learning

If learners are not used to active learning methods, they will be uneasy at
first with this new way of teaching. They may be used to sitting back and
letting the instructor do all the work trying to get whatever is in the
instructor’s head into their own. Some learners and instructors will complain
that active learning is a waste of time and that it takes more time. In the
long run, learners will benefit more from using active learning strategies.

Active learning does take more time than straight lecture without
participation; however, questions often arise
regarding how much a learner retains in a lecture
compared with retention when they have had
opportunities to discover, use and apply the
learning. Instructors need to be selective about
what content will be included in class activities.
Effective active learning strategies also debrief the
activities to ensure learners have made the
connections between the activities and the learning
objectives. Reviews can ensure that
misconceptions are corrected.

Until instructors get familiar with ways to make
learning active, they may find it challenging to come up with ideas.
Purchasing a few good books and resources can really help them with ideas
to build activity, variety and participation into your lessons.

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Small steps
   1. Classroom set-up. Avoid rows of desks, all facing the front.
      Experiment with U-shapes, conference table formats, groups around
                       one table, semi-circles, or circles. Arcs are better
                       than straight rows to improve visibility and greater
                           2. Start with activities that can be done
                       individually before moving to partners and then to
                       triads/small groups before activities that require full
                       participation. Also consider starting with anonymous
                       or private participation before moving to identifiable
                       public activities.

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         Participatory Learning Continuum
                                                                       • Polling (not
                                                                       • Sub Group
                                                                         Discussion (Jigsaw)
                                                                       • Whips
                                                                       • Games
                                                                       • Calling on the next
          No Participation                                               speaker

                                            Starters                                           Full Particpation
                                            • Response Cards                                   • Open Discussion
                                            • Polling                                          • Panels
                                              (anonymous)                                      • Fishbowl
                                            • Learning Partners                                • Games
                                              (Think - Pair -

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Starters: Learning Partners (Think – Pair – Share).

These techniques can ease learners into active learning strategies quite

Begin by:
  1. Allowing them to choose their own partner so the learner selects
      someone who they feel comfortable with as sharing with another
      makes them vulnerable.
  2. Once they have had some experiences, then you could introduce
      randomness into the selection of the partner. There are some quick
      random ways to group learners using cards, playing cards, whose
      birthday is next, find the other half of a picture or puzzle, coloured
                        name tags, draw numbers, colour of candy wrappers,
                           3. Instructors can also assign learning partners.

                            Requiring learners to work with new learning partners
                            each day, each week or each month will help learners
                            discover more about themselves, their classmates and
                            introduces an element of newness into repetitive

Once the learning partners have completed their work, it is often shared with
the class.

Begin by:
  1. Asking for volunteers outside of class and then calling upon them
      during class. All pairs hand in a written account of their work.
  2. Asking for volunteers in the class. All pairs hand in work.
  3. Having each pair report & hand in their work.

Always remind learners that your goal is to have them all sharing their work
and that you will encourage them to participate in each and every class.
Remember that sharing the results of group work is easier as no one
individual is attributed to the work. It is the result of the pair or group’s
work and thus becomes a little bit anonymous. Allow learners to share their
work from their seats before asking them to share from the front of the

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10 Ideas for Learning Partners

   1. Discuss a short document together - story, article, handout, work
      document, procedure, etc
       a. This could be a print based document or perhaps one that the
          instructor has read or shown to the class.
   2. Interview each other – about the assignment, the lesson, a video, a
      topic, any activity
   3. Critique each other’s work – peer
      reviews with guidelines given by the
      instructor can be very helpful.
   4. Question your partner about an
      assigned reading or material to be
   5. Recap a lesson or an activity.
      Learners might choose various ways
      to recap and might use mind maps,
      Venn diagrams, or other visual techniques to assist them. They might
      perform a skit, role play or use another art form to demonstrate their
   6. Develop questions to ask the teacher or to research further
   7. Analyze a scenario, a problem, an experiment, etc together
   8. Test each other
   9. Respond to a question posed by the teacher
   10. Compare notes taken in class – make your own notes better.

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Starters: Response Cards
Hand out index cards or use ½ or ¼ sheets of paper. Using response cards can
save time, provide anonymity to learners and be less threatening for personal
                            disclosures. Request anonymous answers to your

                                  Response cards can be used to collect information on
                                  the learners directly so you can understand them
                                  better. Questions might focus on how they learn
                                  best, what other responsibilities they have that might
                                  interfere with being successful in the course, or any
                                  questions they have about the course material
                                  discussed today. Used daily, they could quickly show
                                  the instructor how confident the learner is in
                                  understanding the material or can reveal gaps or

Every learner participates. These can be used more than once in a class.

Starters - Intermediate: Polling
Survey the learners. To preserve anonymity, have the learners write their
responses and collect them. You can also poll learners verbally and have them
raise their hands. Another technique, “stand where you stand” invites learners to
pick a spot on an invisible line representing where they stand on a question the
teacher is polling them about. This technique is good for learners who like to move
around as it gets them out of their seats. A variation is the 4 corners, whereby
learners are invited to go to the corner that represents his/her answer to a question
or opinion. Polls can be conducted quickly and easily. They also require little
preparation and can be conducted immediately.


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Intermediate and Advanced: A Glance

Subgroup Discussion – Break the learners into small groups and have each group
conduct a discussion. The group is responsible for facilitating the discussion,
recording any information and sharing it with the instructor or larger class. In a
jigsaw, each group discusses one part of a whole. Only by sharing each piece of
the puzzle will the whole topic be studied. Alternatively, each group could be
discussing the same question or topic and their work can be compared or
synthesized into a whole.

Whips – using a whip does not require very much preparation, but does put each
learner on the spot to provide an answer. The instructor starts a sentence and then
goes around the room asking learners to complete the sentence. Allowing learners
to “pass” whenever they wish can reduce stress for shy or unwilling participants.

Panels – In a panel discussion, a small group of learners are invited to present
                        their views to the entire class. Each of the learners
                        presents his/her perspective by taking turns. The audience
                        can ask questions of the panel members. A variation of
                        this technique is to allow the panellists to remain in their
                        seats rather than presenting from the front. Rotate the
                        panel seats to allow participation by all learners.

                        Fishbowl – The “fish” are learners who are participating in
                        an activity whether that is a role play, a demonstration or a
                        discussion. The remaining learners form a circle around
the activity and observe. “Fish” can be changed to bring new ideas or new
representations to the activity.

Games- Use a fun exercise or a quiz game to review material or discover learners’
opinions. Games spark energy and involvement. Variations on favourite board
games can incorporate “skill testing questions . Games are quickly generated using
learning technologies and web based freeware.

Calling on the next speaker – When learners want to contribute to a class
discussion, they raise their hands. Once one speaker is finished, s/he calls upon
the next speaker. Useful if there is a lot of interest in the topic and many learners
will want to contribute.

Working in groups or teams requires more skill than working alone or with a
partner. Before moving onto group discussions, prepare your learners for group

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Facilitating Class Discussions

Class discussion is one of the most effective ways to make learning active. Learners
may have their views challenged by others and they gather public speaking and
communication skills. The instructor’s role is to spark interest in the discussion and
then facilitate it. It is not necessary for the instructor to make a comment after
every student. Here are some ways which the instructor can facilitate the

   1. Paraphrase – So, what you’re saying is that.....” Rephrase what the learner
       has said to ensure understanding.
   2. Check your understanding – “Are you saying that.....?” Asking a learner to
       clarify what he/she means is a useful technique
   3. Compliment – a particularly interesting or insightful comment. “That’s a good
                          point” “Thanks for bringing that up” “You’ve given us a
                          new way to look at ...., thanks.”
                             4. Elaborate – Possibly add examples or suggest other
                             5. Energize – Increase the pace, inject some humour,
                          prod the group if necessary
                             6. Disagree (gently) to generate further discussion –
                          you might disagree by recognizing the learner’s points and
                          then providing an example or situation whereby his/her
       comments may not be accurate.
   7. Mediate – sometimes learners disagree with each other. Mediate the
       discussion so each viewpoint is understood without agreement being
   8. Pull together – weave common threads together, draw relationships among
   9. Change the group’s focus or process by moving them to higher levels of
       thinking. Invite the group to evaluate ideas that have been discussed.
       Break the large group into small groups for further discussion of sub topics.
   10. Summarize – the major views of the discussion.

Silberman, Mel. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Allyn
      & Bacon. Needham Heights.

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