Active Learning

Active Learning

  • Active learning is "a method of learning in which students are actively or experientially involved in the learning process and where there are different levels of active learning, depending on student involvement."
  • Students participate [in active learning] when they are doing something besides passively listening.
  • Students must do more than just listen in order to learn. They must read, write, discuss, and be engaged in solving problems. This process relates to the three learning domains referred to as knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA).
  • Examples of "active learning" activities
    • class discussion
    • think-pair-share (small group discussion - class share)
    • learning cell : alternate asking and answering questions on commonly read materials
    • short written exercise
    • collaborative learning group
    • student debate
    • small group discussion
    • Just-in-time teaching (pre-class questions)
    • class game
    • Learning by teaching

Inquiry-based learning

  • a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios
  • Inquiry-based learning is often assisted by a facilitator rather than a lecturer. Inquirers will identify and research issues and questions to develop knowledge or solutions.
  • Inquiry learning involves developing questions, making observations, doing research to find out what information is already recorded, developing methods for experiments, developing instruments for data collection, collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data, outlining possible explanations and creating predictions for future study.
  • Teacher is facilitator in IBL environment
  • Place needs of students and their ideas at the center
  • Don't wait for the perfect question, pose multiple open-ended questions.
  • Work towards common goal of understanding
  • Remain faithful to the students' line of inquiry
  • Teach directly on a need-to-know basis
  • Encourage students to demonstrate learning using a range of media

Generic Levels

  • Level 1: Confirmation Inquiry. The teacher has taught a particular science theme or topic. The teacher then develops questions and a procedure that guides students through an activity where the results are already known. This method is great to reinforce concepts taught and to introduce students into learning to follow procedures, collect and record data correctly and to confirm and deepen understandings.
  • Level 2: Structured Inquiry. The teacher provides the initial question and an outline of the procedure. Students are to formulate explanations of their findings through evaluating and analyzing the data that they collect.
  • Level 3: Guided Inquiry. The teacher provides only the research question for the students. The students are responsible for designing and following their own procedures to test that question and then communicate their results and findings.
  • Level 4: Open/True Inquiry. Students formulate their own research question(s), design and follow through with a developed procedure, and communicate their findings and results. This type of inquiry is often seen in science fair contexts where students drive their own investigative questions. >>> This is Problem Based Learning

Levels in Science Education

  • Students are provided with questions, methods and materials and are challenged to discover relationships between variables
  • Students are provided with a question, however, the method for research is up to the students to develop
  • Phenomena are proposed but students must develop their own questions and method for research to discover relationships among variables

Important Aspects

  • Students should be able to recognize that science is more than memorizing and knowing facts.
  • Students should have the opportunity to develop new knowledge that builds on their prior knowledge and scientific ideas.
  • Students will develop new knowledge by restructuring their previous understandings of scientific concepts and adding new information learned.
  • Learning is influenced by students' social environment whereby they have an opportunity to learn from each other.
  • Students will take control of their learning.
  • The extent to which students are able to learn with deep understanding will influence how transferable their new knowledge is to real life contexts.

Example of Formats

  • Field-work
  • Case studies
  • Investigations
  • Individual and group projects
  • Research projects

Problem-based learning (PBL)

  • Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving an open-ended problem found in trigger material.
  • The PBL process does not focus on problem solving with a defined solution, but it allows for the development of other desirable skills and attributes. This includes knowledge acquisition, enhanced group collaboration and communication.
  • The PBL tutorial process involves working in small groups of learners. Each student takes on a role within the group that may be formal or informal and the role often alternates.
  • It is focused on the student's reflection and reasoning to construct their own learning.
  • The Maastricht seven-jump process involves clarifying terms, defining problem(s), brainstorming, structuring and hypothesis, learning objectives, independent study and synthesis.


  • Learner-driven self-identified goals and outcomes
  • Students do independent, self-directed study before returning to larger group
  • Learning is done in small groups of 8–10 people, with a tutor to facilitate discussion
  • Trigger materials such as paper-based clinical scenarios, lab data, photographs, articles or videos or patients (real or simulated) can be used
  • The Maastricht 7-jump process helps to guide the PBL tutorial process
  • Based on principles of adult learning theory
  • All members of the group have a role to play
  • Allows for knowledge acquisition through combined work and intellect
  • Enhances teamwork and communication, problem-solving and encourages independent responsibility for shared learning - all essential skills for future practice
  • Anyone can do it as long it is right depending on the given causes and scenario

Computer-supported PBL

  • Computer-supported PBL can be an electronic version (ePBL) of the traditional face-to-face paper-based PBL or an online group activity with participants located distant apart.
  • ePBL provides the opportunity to embed audios and videos, related to the skills (e.g. clinical findings) within the case scenarios improving learning environment and thus enhance students’ engagement in the learning process.
  • The most successful feature of the LMS in terms of user rate was the discussion boards where asynchronous communications took place.
  • Tools
    • Collaborative tools: The first, and possibly most crucial phase in PBL, is to identify the problem. Before learners can begin to solve a problem, all members must understand and agree on the details of the problem. This consensus forms through collaboration and discussion. Example: Discussion Board, Moodle, Discord
    • Research tools. Once the problem has been identified, learners move into the second step of PBL: the information gathering phase. In this phase, learners research the problem by gathering background information and researching potential solutions. This information is shared with the learning team and used to generate potential solutions, each with supporting evidence. Example: Google, Wikipedia.
    • Presentation tools. The third most important phase of PBL is resolving the problem, the critical task is presenting and defending your solution to the given problem. Students need to be able to state the problem clearly, describe the process of problem-solving considering different options to overcome difficulties, support the solution using relevant information and data analysis. Being able to communicate and present the solution clearly is the key to the success of this phase as it directly affects the learning outcomes. Example: Google Presentation, Youtube


Case-based Learning

  • With case-based teaching, students develop skills in analytical thinking and reflective judgment by reading and discussing complex, real-life scenarios.
  • Case studies are stories that are used as a teaching tool to show the application of a theory or concept to real situations. Dependent on the goal they are meant to fulfill, cases can be fact-driven and deductive where there is a correct answer, or they can be context driven where multiple solutions are possible.
  • Case-based learning (CBL) is an established approach used across disciplines where students apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios, promoting higher levels of cognition. In CBL classrooms, students typically work in groups on case studies, stories involving one or more characters and/or scenarios. The cases present a disciplinary problem or problems for which students devise solutions under the guidance of the instructor.
  • CBL:
    • Cases
    • Questions:
      • Assessment
      • Diagnosis
      • Recommendation/Action
    • Team-discussions:
      • Elaboration
      • Emphasis

Problem-based Learning

  • PBL consists of carefully designed problems that challenge students to use problem solving techniques, self-directed learning strategies, team participation skills, and disciplinary knowledge.


  • PBL involves open rather than guided inquiry, is less structured, and the instructor plays a more passive role. In PBL multiple solutions to the problem may exit, but the problem is often initially not well-defined. PBL also has a stronger emphasis on developing self-directed learning.