Active Learning Classrooms: What We Know

What is an Active Learning Classroom? Why are they useful? What makes them work? his is a great article by Derek Bruff, director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching and a principal senior lecturer in the Vanderbilt Department of Mathematics.  He provides several photos of spaces that are in FLEXspace!

As you may know, “active learning classrooms (ALCs) were identified as a top strategic technology in EDUCAUSE’s 2017 survey of higher education information technology leaders. It was the first time ALCs made the top ten, and they entered the list at #1.”

“In the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), active learning instruction, defined as practice that “engages students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert,” is known to be more effective than traditional lecturing for student learning and student success (Freeman et al., 2014). This finding seems to be controversial, with lots of faculty members over the years writing essays in defense of the lecture, but the research is clear: If your instruction involves “continuous exposition by the teacher,” there’s a better way to teach. That’s true in the STEM disciplines, and it’s likely true in other fields, too, although there’s not as much research on active learning in, say, the humanities. Active learning classrooms are useful, then, because research shows that the affordances of ALCs facilitate adoption of active learning instruction, which leads to greater student learning (Whiteside, Brooks, & Walker, 2010; Baepler, Walker, & Driessen, 2014).”

Listen to Derek’s interview with D. Christopher Brooks about ALCs.

Check out these additional resources about active learning classrooms:

• Active learning classrooms at the University of Minnesota
• SCALE-UP active learning classrooms at North Carolina State
• TEAL active learning classrooms at MIT



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