Active and Interactive Learning

Why this is important?

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn” (Benjamin Franklin)

“Some people talk in their sleep.  Lecturers talk while other people sleep” (Albert Camus)

A key element of student engagement is student/staff interaction in the classroom. The University is therefore committed to encouraging greater use of active and interactive methods and to exploring alternatives and enhancements to the traditional 50 minute lecture format. A review of relevant educational literature confirms that increased levels of interaction in the classroom or laboratory are important for effective student learning. Chickering and Gamson’s seminal review of empirical evidence (1987) identified seven principles of good practice; this included encouraging co-operation amongst students and active learning. The more recent work of Brown and Race, 2002, Exley and Dennick, 2004 and many others, reinforces this view.

Furthermore, Peelo and Wareham (2002) argue that withdrawal from a course is more likely when students consider the quality of teaching to be poor. They attribute the decline in in staff/student interaction to rising student numbers and the resultant impersonalisation of higher education. The current economic climate makes these factors even more influential – parents and students are increasingly questioning the value of their investment in a university education. Digitally literate students also expect their tutors to make full use of the technologies that support learning, teaching and assessment.



Active and Interactive methods can have a transformative effect on students' attainment

For example: following the adoption of this approach in one QUB module, the number of students achieving an average final mark of 60% doubled from 28% to 56%.

Opportunities for students to be involved in taught sessions, or to use interactive technology to engage with their peers and tutors, enhance their sense of belonging to a vibrant learning community and reduce drop-out (Bamber and Tett, 2001)

This contributes to institutional efforts to improve retention.  Across Queen's, students continue to rate active and interactive approaches highly in module revews and focus groups: 'You have to turn up to learn. The lecture hall was full every day' (Civil Engineering student).

When dialogue occurs in a session, it can build students' confidence and increase motivation, as well as creating a safe space for mistakes to be made and for timely feedback to be shared with and by the student

This encourages self and peer reflection which are critical to future continuing professional development.  It also allows students to contextualise their learning and to have experiential learning opportunities that accurately simulate situations and behaviours they will encounter in their future workplace.

How can I make my teaching more interactive?

During 2012-13, over 20 exemplars in Level 1 modules were collated across all faculty groupings.  These confirm that it is possible to make learning interactive with larger student numbers as well as small groups.  Lectures may be used to introduce core concepts to cohorts of 40 -50 students who are then divided into tutorial groups of 5 -6 to enable them to get more practical experience and reinforce their understanding.  Queen’s is at the leading edge of such innovation in some disciplines, since in most other UK universities similar content (e.g. urban design) is taught using lectures only and does not challenge students through interactive activities.

Whilst demonstrating common elements, the case studies reflect the diversity of the University’s offering and many models have potential to be applied outside their own disciplines and with different cohort sizes.