Unit 2. Embedding culture in to active learning

Definition of active learning

Prince M. (2004) described that active learning is generally defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to do meaningful learning activities and think about what they are doing.

As we know, collaborative online projects (international as well) pose different challenges than traditional classroom environment. Robert C. Hares in research Improving Group Collaboration in the Online Learning Environment say that apart from the collaborative technologies used, other factors affect the success of the effort including cohesiveness, coordination, group side and the assigned task. The selection of the appropriate technology affects the success of the group as the technology can either inhibit or enhance the collaborative process and the success of the endeavor.

Active learning, a term popular in US education circles in the 1980s, encourages learners to take responsibility for their learning, requiring their experience in education to inform their process of learning.[1]

Effective learning involves providing students with a sense of progress and control over their own learning. This requires creating a situation where learners have a chance to try out or test their ideas. This testing is ideally accomplished by connecting students’ ideas to concrete experience and that’s where the “active” part of the learning comes in. Active learning involves providing opportunities for students to meaningfully talk and listen, write, read, and reflect on the content, ideas, issues.

Popular active learning strategies

Zayapragassarazan and Kumar in their article Active Learning Methods say that students must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, engage themselves in learning by doing and apply it to their daily lives. [2]

The basic activities through which all students learn are:

  • talking and listening,
  • writing,
  • doing,
  • reading and reflecting,
  • specific active learning strategies use one or more of these elements.

There are four broad categories of learning strategies that one might use in an active learning classroom:

  1. individual activities,
  2. paired activities,
  3. informal small groups
  4. cooperative student projects.

The choice of these will depend on the size of the class, space, objectives of the class, the amount of time the teacher can devote to the activity, and the comfort level of the teacher with the strategy.

Zayapragassarazan and Kumar submit some of the popular active learning strategies that have resulted in enhanced learning:

Concept maps

Charts, diagrams, webs, maps, as well as pictures, can be used as visual examples of abstract concepts. Concept maps are concerned with relationships among ideas. A concept map illustrates connections that exist between terms or concepts covered in course material. They help students decide the important points and how they relate to each other. Students may be asked either individually or as groups, to develop one of these visual structures. Members of groups can be asked to come to a consensus and present one form to the class which can also be shared, discussed, and synthesized into new ones for better understanding

Collaborative writing

A collaborative writing assignment can be organized in several ways especially by avoiding giving one person all the work. A group may be asked to break down a writing assignment into parts and each student will write his or her part and then brings it to the group for compilation and editing


In brainstorming, students are encouraged to generate as many ideas on the topic as possible without judgment or critique. Brainstorming is a process for developing creative solutions to problems. Brainstorming works by focusing on a problem, and then deliberately coming up with as many solutions as possible and by pushing the ideas as far as possible.

Collaborative Learning

Recent research suggests that individuals in small groups learn better than they do on their own or in isolation. In light of the research on active learning, this is not surprising, as a small group initiates collaborative learning and its resulting activities: students generate questions, discuss and arrive at conclusions, turn thought into written or oral language, etc.

Scenarios/Case Studies

In this method participants discuss and analyze the scenario/case provided by facilitator, and deliver presentations on their findings to other small groups or to the whole group or simply record ideas on an overhead/white board so that the facilitator can draw questions and synthesis from the material. Participants can also develop (individually, in pairs, groups) their own work-based case studies and exchange them with others for discussion and analysis.

Problem-Based Learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) begins with a problem prepared by the instructor that generally cannot be easily solved without data collection and mastery of subordinate skills. Students search for resources and faculty guide students to collect information and resources. Faculty help students learn to frame the right questions, formulate problems in clear and organized language, explore alternatives, and make effective decisions. The theory is that by solving problems students learn to generate procedures that they can use again when they encounter another, similar situation.

Case-based Instruction

Case-based instruction introduces cases after the students have completed lectures. They apply learned theories to real-life situations. The use of cases allows students to integrate and apply developing knowledge and skills such as reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal ability to hypothetical or real case scenarios.

Panel Discussions

In panel discussions students are asked to give presentations by working in groups and then receive questions from the rest of the class after the presentation. This could also be turned into a debate where groups are given alternative positions to defend and the groups present their arguments, followed by whole class discussions on the topics.

Teaching to learn/Peer teaching

In this the students are helped to adjust to a new role by having them teach to a small group. Explain them of all the active teaching and learning techniques that they could use and give them enough preparation time. Students may be provided with clues on what facilitators are expecting from them. Topics that would supplement the class should be provided for teaching. Some of the more effective students to teach to the entire class should be selected for this method. Facilitators can also participate as students and ask helpful or follow-up questions that will help the student teacher to extend himself/herself.

Role Playing, Drama, and Simulations

Masks with the theatre concept

Affective qualities such as empathy, as well as understanding of concepts can be stimulated through role plays. Putting all the theories into practice, simulation can be the students’ first chance to face the realities of what they have learned and the attitudes they have connected to the learning.

As Zayapragassarazan and Kumar sad the benefits of active learning are widely acclaimed in education. There is some research evidence that this approach supports critical thinking and problem solving. Active learning promotes proper knowledge, attitude and skills among the students. The basic concept is that students will be able to learn better if they are subjected to active learning environments which also encourage learners to take responsibility for their learning.

Teaching Methods for Inspiring the Students of the Future

This video is not about online learning, it’s about how important is to choose right methods for now days learners.

[1] Prince M. 2004. Does active learning work? A review of the Research. New York.

[2] Zayapragassarazan Z., Kumar S. 2012. Active Learning Methods. India.

Embedding culture in to active learning by Kristijonas Jakubsonas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

This project has been funded by Erasmus + programme of the European Union. This web site reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.