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Launch into Active Learning


Functional By Design 

The truth is, we learn more effectively when we learn with more than just our ears and eyes -- active learning strategies in the classroom allow students to form educational memories that are linked with their bodies, their emotions, and their social skills. Learning can happen in many ways, but when we give students the opportunity to learn in different contexts, we give them a long-term advantage in their educational pursuits.   

Active Learning Classrooms at Stony Brook feature modular furniture, expanded AV equipment that allows for multiple device connectivity, and collaboration-centered equipment such as moveable white boards and work stations.

  • Why use active learning?

    Students are more successful in active learning classrooms.

    Broad-based research shows that students perform 6% better on exams, and 10% fewer students fail in active learning classrooms. (See Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics;

    "[Under active learning,] students learn more, which means we're doing our job better. They get higher grades and fail less, meaning that they are more likely to stay in STEM majors, which should help solve a major national problem. Finally, there is a strong ethical component. There is a growing body of evidence showing that active learning differentially benefits students of color and/or students from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or women in male-dominated fields. It's not a stretch to claim that lecturing actively discriminates against underrepresented students."

  • Activities for an active learning classroom

    Active learning activies in the classroom can invlove large groups, small groups, or individuals. Using active learning allows students to reframe knowledge through more than just auditory processing (lecture). Activities can allow students to participate in group discussions, write individual reflections or responses, interview fellow students, teach fellow students, and more. See below for detailed activity examples, but above all else, remember that we learn best not through listenting, not through seeing, but through  doing .

    Active learning is turning learning into doing, and you can make big differences with small changes. At CELT, we can help you design an active learning activity for your classroom at any time! Just make an appointment with one of our staff, or simply drop by your Faculty Commons at Melville E-1332.

  • Planning for an active learning class

    You can plan for an active learning class by reviewing the suggested activities below, attending one of our Active Learning Orientations, or meeting with CELT Staff at the Faculty Commons in Melville E-1332/

  • Research and Resources





    Hyun, J., Ediger, R., & Lee, D. (2017). Students’ satisfaction on their learning process in active learning and traditional classrooms.  International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29(1), 108-118. Retrieved from 

    This study and its resulting data examines the necessity of specifically designed space for Active Learning Pedagogy. While an Active Learning Classroom facilitates interactive productivity, instructors may effectively use active learning pedagogy within traditional classrooms. Based on specific examples and a performed study, the greatest advantage of active learning is the positive influence on both student and instructor attitude and engagement. “Pedagogy is key.”

    Highlights: “Faculty members in the active learning community (ALC) shared that they tended to spend more time before class in class preparation once they were committed to active learning pedagogy.”

    Wu, S.P.W., & Rau, M.A. (2017). How technology and collaboration promote formative feedback: A role for CSCL research in active learning interventions.  Making a Difference: Prioritizing Equity and Access in CSCL. 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2017), 1 , 279-286. Retrieved from 

    This paper details an observational study which looks at the ability to utilize active learning interventions to facilitate formative feedback. Active learning, largely through online problem sets, provides more opportunity for levels of production, reflection, and feedback as well as the repetition of those aspects of learning. Active learning setups also allows instructors to give more feedback of substantial quality to each student.

    Highlights: “One possible explanation of how technology supported collaboration in active learning interventions is that correctness feedback from the online problems helps students trust corrective feedback from peers.”

    Auerbach, A.J., Higgins, M., Brickman, P., & Andrews, T.C. (2018). Teacher knowledge for active-learning instruction: Expert-novice comparison reveals differences.  Life Sciences Education17(1). Retrieved from 

    This study explores the implementation and efficacy of active learning through the lens of instructor experience. The extent of an instructor’s knowledge of teaching and learning has a direct impact on how effectively they implement active learning strategies.Through accumulated experience, veteran teachers ‘notice differently than novice teachers, drawing on knowledge that newer teachers lack to critically analyze teaching and learning in a classroom…[especially] the relationship between teaching strategies and student thinking.’ To fully realize the benefits of active learning, pedagogy must be an integral part of preparation and facilitation.

    Highlights: “While a lecturer can prepare an entire lesson before a class meeting and enact it without much deviation, an active-learning instructor engages students in examining and articulating their own thinking during a lesson and must be able to recognize, make sense of, and respond to student thinking in real time.”

    Brame, C.J. (n.d.). Active learning.  Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved from 

    This article offers multiple definitions, strategies, activities, and resources for active learning . The authors ties active learning basics to constructivist learning and authorities such as Piaget and Vygotsky. The research supports that active learning fosters more success than traditional lecture-based teaching and that active learning is an effective tool for inclusivity (socioeconomic status, gender) in classrooms. Article provides a good foundational understanding of active learning theory and practice.

    Carr, R., Palmer, S., & Hagel, P. (2015). Active learning: the importance of developing a comprehensive measure.  Active Learning in Higher Education, 16(3), 173-186. Retrieved from 

    Carr, Palmer, and Hagel perform “an investigation into the validity of a widely used scale for measuring the extent to which higher education students employ active learning strategies.” They lay out a foundational understanding of active learning before delving into modes of active learning and their measurability on scales such as the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The data supports the importance of reflective and guided  experiences in learning and stresses the importance of active learning strategies for modern online learning.

    Baepler, P., & Walker, J.D. (2014). Active learning classrooms and educational alliances: Changing relationships to improve learning.  New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 137. Retrieved from 

    This paper addresses why active learning classrooms work for our current academic society, exploring social ideology and practice. Active learning classrooms are shown to foster and facilitate a learning community that is dynamic and flexible, engaged and interactive. Largely, the deconstruction of traditional hierarchy and the evolution of learning go hand in hand. The authors explore this through an overarching concept of  educational alliance and five main aspects of learning and the learning environment:  mutual respect, shared responsibility for learning, effective communication and feedback, cooperation, and trust and security. The fluidity and interactivity of space and environment is shown to actively influence both student and instructor mindset and engagement.

    Chickering, A.W., & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education.  American Association for Higher Education. Retrieved from 

    One of the original and most often cited articles that positions active learning at the heart and soul of a learning environment. These seven principles are 1. Encourages contacts between students and faculty 2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students 3. Uses active learning techniques 4. Gives prompt feedback 5. Emphasizes time on task 6. Communicates high expectations 7. Respects diverse talents and way of learning. This article shows the common foundation of good teaching no matter the location, the space, or the ideology. 

    Beichner, R.J. (2014). History and evolution of active learning spaces.  New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 137. Retrieved from 

    Freeman, S., Eddy, S., McDonough, M., Smith, M.K., Okoroafor, H., Wenderoth M.P. (2014)  

    Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. 

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111(23):8410-8415.

    Freeman et al. use meta-analysis to test the hypothesis that lecturing maximizes learning and course performance. They focus on analyzing examination scores or failure rates in STEM courses in traditional lecturing or active learning. According to their findings, average exam scores increased by 6% under active learning classes. 

    Haak, D.C., HilleRisLambers, J., Pitre, E., Freeman S. (2011). Increased structure and active          

    learning reduce the achievement gap in introductory biology.  Science. 332(6034): 1213-1216.

    In this article, the authors demonstrate how highly structured course design had a positive impact on performance of all students, regardless of diverse backgrounds, in a intro biology class. The Carnegie Hall hypotheis outlines that "intensive practice, via active-learning exercises, has a disproportionate benefit for capable but poorly prepared students." 

    Tanner, K.D. (2013). Structure matters: twenty-one teaching strategies to promote student 

    engagement and cultivate classroom equity.  CBE Life Sciences Educ ation. 12(3): 322–331.

    Equitable teaching strategies are investigated for their effectiveness in supporting biology instructors in fostering equity in the classroom. 


See Activity Descriptions Here


    • 1-Minute Paper
    • Pro-Con Grid
    • Case Study Analysis
    • Stump the Expert

Small Group

    • Case Studies
    • Complete Turn Taking
    • Post-it Parade
    • Group Text Reading
    • Peer Review
    • Respond, React, Reply,
    • Pro-Con Grids
    • Social Annotation of a Text
    • Buzz Groups
    • Quescussion
    • Think Aloud
    • Round Table
    • Debates
    • Think-Pair-Share

Large Group

  • Line-up Parafe
  • Post-It Parafe
  • Deabates
  • Dotmocracy
  • Fishbowl
  • Quescussion
  • Index Card Pass
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Buzz groups
  • 1-Minute Paper




Active by Design, Our ALCs are Ready for Your Big Ideas

  • Fish Bowl
  • Model UN
  • Case Study
  • Situation Room
  • Movie Night
  • Academic Speed Dating

Available Supplies on Request

  • Whiteboard Markers
  • Post-it Notes
  • AV and Office Supplies

Support for ALC Classes

  • Pre-gaming your lesson plan
  • Providing Quatitative Analysis on ALC through COPUS Observations
  • Training for Technology in ALCs
  • Training for Pedagogy in ALCs
  • Micro-credentialing in Active Learning

Contact CELT About Using an Active Learning Classroom


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