Wayne State University


What do I do about students who resist active learning and don't want to participate?

It's not surprising that students would resist active learning as it requires students to move beyond their normal routines. Think about it, it's much easier for students to sit back, take notes and listen to a lecture than to be engaged in activities throughout a class period. Acknowledge to students the transition from traditional lectures and active learning can be challenging and new for students, but the result is well worth it. Consistently teach with active learning as it will provide students with structure as they transition from traditional lecturing to active learning and remind them that they will learn much more by doing rather than listening.

How can I cover all of the material if I take time to be interactive with my students?

Participating in active learning does not mean that an entire class period has to be a group learning experience. Just a few minutes of interactive activities each class period will make a difference in student learning with minimal impact to student's missing out on traditionally presented material. Keep in mind; students bring what they know to class and work together to build new ideas. Quickly you will discover that even though lecture time has been reduced students will be more productive, the class with have decreased distractions and students will be engaged in the material. See the Resources page for citations to what alternatives work better than lectures or can be combined with lecturing to get the best of lecture and active learning.

I want to change my teaching, but I do not have much time and I do not know where to start. What small thing can I do?

Start by thinking about your learning goals for the students in your class. Realize that achieving these goals depends on what the students do. One change would for students to spend more of class time actively engaged with the material, instead of taking notes passively. To achieve this, try a minute paper, in which the students answer a question about what you just covered, share their answer with a neighbor, then have a class discussion of what they talked about together. This works for any size class. It will work better if you let your students know what they will do ahead of time and why they will do it. If this does not sound like what you want to do, see more possibilities in the Getting Started page or some of the easy to implement Teaching Tips.

What is the research that listening to lectures is not the best way to learn?

Some content delivery is required, but learning from lectures that are longer than 15 to 20 minutes is very difficult. See the Resources page for citations to what alternatives work better than lectures or can be combined with lecturing to get the best of lecture and active learning.

A faculty member who teaches a subsequent course, complains that the students are coming to them unprepared. What can I do?

The key to a successful active learning classroom is to let the students know up front that they will be participating in an active classroom environment. This teaching style is not something that students will be familiar with. After each class period, tell students exactly what they need to do to be prepared for the next class session. Very quickly students will realize that they are accountable to each other and will begin to do this on their own as the semester unfolds.

Can these methods be used in large format classes or in classrooms with stadium seating?

There are many kinds of activities that can be used in a large classroom setting. The commonality of these methods involves the student becoming an active participant in the learning process, engaged in in-class activities, small group discussions, and cooperative problem solving.

My chair/faculty mentor advises me to spend as little time as possible on my teaching activities. What should I do?

This is not about spending more time on teaching but rather spending the time on doing those activities that have been proven to be most effective for student learning.

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