At the heart of Active Learning is the student experience.

Active Learning is when teachers create the opportunity and guide students to construct their own understanding of a big idea from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

To do this, teachers:

  • Engage students with “real world” problems that are meaningful and will take learning a big idea to solve.
  • Elicit what students already know about the big idea, and design an experience that might be hands-on but is always minds-on

In response, Students:

  • Explore and test their own notions about the big idea.
  • Explain what they have figured out for themselves before the teacher elaborates, fully engaging in the concept and activity.
  • Apply what they learned to solve their “real world” problem or extend their understanding by tackling a new problem.

As a result, Active Learning moves students to a deeper understanding of a STEM concept and improves their ability to use that concept to solve problems.  An Active Learning lesson might have all, just a few, or even one of the components described above. Active Learning engages students in the mindset of the new standards, including Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards – Math.

Curious to learn more? Check out this video “A Table for 22” (courtesy of Teaching Channel) and time guide below to see Active Learning in action (note: you’ll need to create a free account first!):

Guide for video:

1:06-1:46: The teacher defines a real-world problem which students can relate to, makes sure that the challenge requires understanding/use of target concepts of perimeter and area and target practices to solve.

2:44-3:25: The teacher elicits students’ initial understandings in writing (flashes up in video) and in conversation about rectangles, area, and perimeter.

4:15-6:30: Students discuss the challenge among themselves and in groups explore their own ideas and approaches for solving the problem. Students recall, use, and test their notions of the concepts of area and perimeter and use target practices as they explore.

6:58-8:20: The class comes back together and students first explain what they figured out themselves – including algorithms they invented to solve this real-world problem – before the teacher elaborates.

9:15-12:15: Students work as a whole class to use their new understandings to solve the real-world problem.

12:05-13:32: Teacher helps students elaborate on and confirm the math concepts now deeply learned.