Archbishop Courtenay Primary School

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Archbishop Courtenay Primary School

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Active Learning

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The Benefits of employing active learning in the classroom

There are several benefits to employing active learning strategies in the classroom that aid the development of pupils in a variety of age groups active learning approaches:

Create lifelong learners – These strategies help pupils to become lifelong learners as it promotes learning to be not only about the content but also about the process in which a pupil learns.

Provide pupils with greater control over their learning – increased involvement helps engage pupils and gives them skills they can use later in life, once they’ve left school and college.

Encourage pupils to stay focused on their learning – when a pupil is involved in the learning, rather than just passively sitting and listening, they’re more likely to stay focused.

Improve a pupil’s enthusiasm for their studies – encourage pupils to get involved with active learning and they’re more likely to get excited about their studies or a particular subject matter.

Make a topic more intellectually exciting – when a pupil applies active learning methods to a topic it gives them the opportunity to get truly excited about the subject.

Allow pupils to participate at a higher level of academic discussion – offering pupils a better opportunity for deeper analysis, critical thinking and evaluation of a topic.

Provide unparalleled support and a more rounded education – pupils can support each other, so it doesn’t just fall on the teacher. They’ll pick up other skills and dive deeper into topics, enabling for a more rounded learning environment.

Prepare pupils of any age for future employment – active learning techniques can be a good way of blending skills that will be  useful for them in the workplace. By integrating activities such as case studies and problem-based learning scenarios into your teaching, it provides the opportunity for pupils to practice skills that are essential for the workplace.

Improve collaboration – whether it’s simply more class discussion or pupil generated test questions, active learning inspires a large increase in overall collaboration between pupils.



12 examples of active learning techniques

1. Think pair share

Think pair share is a great learning strategy to develop thinking skills and engage in group work. It works by providing pupils with a prompt or question and giving them time to respond to it independently by jotting down their ideas. After a set amount of time, children then share their responses with a partner for five to twelve minutes, discussing similarities and differences. Finally, each pair feeds back their ideas to the class to facilitate a whole group discussion.

It’s important you listen to pupil responses and ask them to elaborate on their thinking by providing explanations, evidence, or clarifications. Try to stay neutral in your reaction to pupils’ comments to allow them to come up with their own evaluations of the topic. You can also invite others to react and respond to ideas by providing alternative viewpoints, agreements or disagreements.


2. One sentence summary

This learning strategy allows pupils to use high order thinking skills to condense their learning into one sentence and requires learners to engage with language at a high level. This could be done at the end of a lesson to give pupils a few minutes to summarise their learning and improve memory.

3. Role play

Role-playing can be used to help improve children’s confidence and encourage collaborative learning. A typical role-playing exercise would see pupils taking on the role of a character in a particular situation, encouraging them to solve problems using approaches and skills relevant to that situation.

You can use role-play in a variety of subjects, for example, in science, you could ask them to role-play a scientific process such as the life cycle of a plant while in history, they could take on the role of a key character to play out the events of the time.


4. Just in time teaching

A method of active learning that uses a blend of class discussion, collaboration and individual learning. Your pupils will be set a task, usually reading, to do outside of the classroom in their own time. They’ll then have to respond to a series of short questions, whether that’s online or in writing on a worksheet. Once they’ve done this you can create a number of group exercises based on the work and their answers in the classroom, where pupils will have to cooperate.


5. The muddiest point

In this activity, you ask children to reflect on the part of a lesson they found the most unclear or confusing. If you have an interactive whiteboard you could get children to write or indicate on the whiteboard the topics they are most unclear about. This will allow them to reflect on their learning on the topic in question while also providing excellent feedback for teachers who can tailor future lessons to tackle the issues arising across the class.


6. Three-step interviews

A cooperative learning strategy, the three-step interview encourages pupils to develop active listening skills by quizzing one another, sharing their thoughts and taking notes. Children work in groups of three, taking on the roles of the interviewer, interviewee and notetaker.

Assign the class a theme or topics of discussion and then give children five minutes to interview each other about the key information relating to the topic in question. After the time has passed, get the children to rotate roles. This allows children to apply different questioning strategies, reflect on their understanding of the topic and collaborate in their groups as they take on each role.


7. Game-based learning

With children growing up in a fast-paced digital age, game-based learning is a great way to tap into their digital skills. Lesson teaching software drives pupil engagement and brings lessons to life with creative resources to use in the classroom.


8. Minute paper

Much like the One Sentence Summary activity, Minute Paper is best done towards the end of a teaching session. Ask pupils to consider what is the most important thing they learnt today, and which thing is the least clear. During the next lesson, discuss the issues pupils found less clear to aid their understanding. This provides pupils with the opportunity to actively think about what they have learned, as well as providing feedback about areas that may need covering differently.


9. Fish bowl

To encourage participation by all pupils, a fish bowl is a good approach for discussing dilemmas or debates. Some of the pupils sit in an inner circle (the fish bowl) and the others are around the edge observing the discussion.

Allow the pupils in the inner circle a time to prepare ideas and questions in advance, while you brief the pupils who are observing what they should be listening for. The idea is that the participants in the inner circle are more likely to get involved than they would if it was a large group discussion, and the pupils observing learn from their peers.


10. Problem-based learning

Problem-based learning reverses the ‘traditional’ teaching approach: pupils are provided with a problem to solve, and then have to work out which learning and research they need to engage with to solve the problem. This activity works best in group settings and creates individual learning paths as each group and pupil learns independently.


11. The pause procedure

This is a great way to promote active learning in your classroom even when you’re focusing primarily on passive learning. Every 12-15 minutes of your class, when you’ve been dictating or sharing videos, you should ‘pause’ for two to three minutes. In this time, you should encourage pupils to share their notes in pairs, giving them a chance to talk about what they’ve learnt, rework their notes or ask any questions they have.


12. Posters & gallery walk

Another group activity you can engage your pupils in is a poster and gallery walk. Give groups of pupils an assignment that they need to work on together and present their ideas on a sheet of chart paper. Once they have completed their poster, have them display it on the wall around the classroom. One of their group will stay with the poster and help to explain it as the class circulates to look at all of the posters.

Pupils take turns standing by their poster so each of them has the chance to visit the other groups’ posters. You could also get pupils to feedback on what they learnt from other groups’ posters to further their understanding of other topics.