Center for Faculty Excellence

Active Learning For Almost Any Size Class


Teaching Tips III:
suggestions and ideas on teaching

Active Learning Part I  |  Classroom Assessment

 Think–Pair–Share A problem is posed. Students think about it alone for five minutes or less,
then pair up to discuss their views. The pairs share their conclusions with the rest of the class.


  1. Minute Paper Pause after 15 minutes of class and ask students to take a minute to write a two-sentence summary of what he or she has learned so far. Depending on how much time you want to devote to this, the students could pair up and help each other better understand the material for a few minutes or a few could report to the class.
  2. Jigsaw Choose learning material that can be divided into parts, like an experiment, a list, or several articles on a similar topic. Divide students into groups equaling the number of parts. Ask each group to read, discuss, and learn the material. Next, form jigsaw learning groups composed of one member from each of the initial groups. Each new group will contain an expert on each part of the material, so that together the group will learn all of the material. Reconvene the class to go over the material. You may also ask the jigsaw groups to answer questions based on their accumulated knowledge.

Lectures: Three Alternative Formats

  1. Feedback Lecture– two mini lectures separated by a small-group study session.
  2. Guided Lecture– a half-class lecture with no note taking, followed by a short period of individual student recall, in turn followed by small-group activity -- reconstruction of the lecture with instructor assistance.
  3. Responsive Lecture– devote one class each week to answering open-ended, student-generated questions. Questions may or may not be submitted in advance.
  4. Roundtable Students divide into groups to answer a query. Each group is given only one pen and one piece of paper. Each group member in turn writes down his or her response on the paper. The results are examined and placed on an overhead for class discussion. There is more accountability for each student if he or she has to explain the written remarks.
  5. Voting A show of hands to keep students involved and to determine what the class
    believes as a group. This exercise works well in large classes. It refocuses the students' attention. It can clarify larger issues into smaller subsets. It requires students to engage the material. Start off with a general query, i.e. Who thinks the British caused the Revolutionary War? Who thinks the colonies did?, and then explore the subject further.
  6. End of Class Query In the last three minutes of class ask the students to report anonymously
    two things they learned and what questions remain.
  7. Trade a Problem Divide the class into teams and have each team construct review questions.
    Each question is written on an index card (each team can have a different color). The answer to each question is written on the back of the card. The teams then trade cards. Without looking at the answers, one member of the team reads each question. The team decides by consensus on an answer. If the team's answer does not agree with the original answer, they should add their answer on the back of the card as an alternative. Cards continue to be traded. The teacher may then want to conduct a whole-class discussion
    on the questions with more than one answer.
  8. Concept Map Divide the class into groups and give each group a pen and a large piece
    of paper or a transparency. Each group should write down the topic being studied in the center of the paper inside a circle or rectangle, then place key examples or related concepts inside smaller shapes and connect them to the main topic. There are many possible models of the relationship among concepts, i.e. chains, spiders, or more complicated ones.