What is Active Learning?
‘Active learning’ is a pedagogical approach which engages students cognitively and metacognitively in meaningful learning activities. Students are expected to read, write, reflect, discuss and actively participate in higher-order thinking tasks such as application, analysis, evaluation and synthesis. Active learning can work in almost any setting and takes many forms, from briefly structured discussions that require minimal planning to high-stakes assignments that might be done in stages and require intensive planning. While active learning can make good use of teaching technology tools, it is a pedagogy that can also be implemented in low-tech and no-tech environments.
Some effective active learning strategies include questioning, discussion, drama, debates, demonstrations, role play and simulation, experimentation, and peer teaching and learning. Along with teaching and learning strategies, providing appropriate assessment and constructive feedback are absolutely critical to students’ success as active learners.
What is an Active Learning Classroom?
At BC, we refer to Active Learning Classrooms (ALC) as student-oriented, technologically-enhanced learning spaces designed to foster visible thinking and collaboration among students. ALCs are purpose-built physical spaces meant to facilitate ‘active learning’ for students. They are mostly designed such that there is no classroom front; instead, the instructor moves around the classroom working on multiple screens and writing surfaces. Movable furniture, technology, and sound systems allow for a flexible environment where the pedagogy and learning strategies can be tailored to the needs of the instructor and students. ALCs encourage discussion and interactive teaching with a special focus on problem solving, analysis, higher order thinking and collaboration during the class.
ALC at Boston College
The CTE manages one Active Learning Classroom (located in the O’Neill Library 246) that faculty members can book on a semester-long or ad hoc basis. We do invite faculty members looking to book this room to utilize the room for active learning, rather than traditional instructional approaches. The room features furniture that can be easily configured to accommodate work in groups and includes writing surfaces and integrated wireless projection to any of six screens in the room. The room is also equipped with cameras and ceiling-mounted microphones to allow for video conferencing and lecture capture.
Faculty or staff members can request ad hoc bookings of this classroom with the understanding that the requester will be responsible for overseeing the use of the room. If you would like to reserve O’Neill 246 for a particular date or book the room for the semester, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.552.3826.
To read more about strategies for planning to teach in an Active Learning Classroom, see our additional resources on: