Teaching Resources

Active Learning and Flipped Classroom


Active Learning


What it is

Active learning in the classroom emphasizes student engagement in the learning process rather than through traditional, passive knowledge sharing (such as lecturing). Commonly, students will engage in small or large activities centered around the lesson of the day, working together and with the instructor to apply knowledge and problem-solving skills to better understand material.

Evidence shows that the active learning strategy improves student engagement in the classroom and improves critical thinking skills, increases transfer and retention of new information, increases motivation, improves social skills, and decreases course failure.


How to implement it

Successful implementation of the active learning strategy hinges on meaningful activities, explaining rationale to students through transparency of teaching, and collecting feedback from students to assess their understanding of the material.

The main goal is to have students engaging deeply with course material and information. Try some of the following strategies in the classroom:

  • Small or large group discussions: Typically some questions to get started encourage engagement, but allowing students to lead the discussion where their interests lie encourages active engagement.
  • Think-Pair-Share: Give students time to think on a question (often through writing), pair or group them off to share what they come up with, and then come back together as a larger group; this can help coax quieter students into sharing with larger group discussions.
  • Hybrid lecturing: 10-12 min. of lecturing followed by a 3-4 min. activity, alternating over desired length, with a 5 min. summary towards the end of class to assess learning.
  • Short written exercise: Often called the “one minute paper,” this asks students to summarize the day’s discussion in a short 1-2 paragraphs to be turned in before the end of class, providing a good way to review material.



Other resources

Active Learning, Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Washington
Active Learning, Center for Educational Innovation, University of Minnesota


Flipped Classroom 


What it is

A flipped classroom inverts the conventional structure of the classroom in which an instructor provides new information during class and students practice these skills outside the classroom. Instead, the flipped classroom invites students to learn new material outside class to gain a basic understanding, and to use class time instead to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate that information through discussion, debate, and problem-solving activities with the support structure from both instructor and peers. In this way, learning becomes active rather than passive.


How to implement it

    1. Provide exposure to new materials prior to class: Content such as textbook readings, lecture videos, podcasts, screencasts, etc. become required reading/viewing for students in the class, providing a joint basis for knowledge when entering the classroom.
    2. Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class: When students prepare for this class, provide tasks associated with that preparation. Usually, teachers will associate this task with points such as online quizzes, worksheets, or short writing assignments. Grading for completion on such assignments is typical, as class activities might provide the feedback students need.

    3. Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding: The aforementioned prep work students complete can serve as a means to gauge student understanding. Pre-class online quizzes, for example, can allow the instructor to practice Just-in-Time Teaching (where the instructor tailors class activities to focus on the elements with which students are struggling).

    4. Provide in-class activities that focus on higher level cognitive activities: Students gain basic knowledge outside of class, so class time should promote deeper learning. Depending on the class and the learning goals, this might manifest as debates, data analysis, or synthesis activities. The key is that students are using class time to deepen their understanding and increase their skills at using their new knowledge rather than simply reviewing or lecturing.



Other Resources

Flipped Classroom, Faculty Innovation Center, University of Texas at Austin
What, Why, and How to Implement a Flipped Classroom Model, Office of Medical Education Research and Development, Michigan State University
Looking for 'Flippable' Moments in Your Classroom, Faculty Focus