Engaging Students in Active Learning Classrooms (ALC)

Guides for activities you can use in large active learning classrooms.

Engaging Students in Active Learning Classrooms

These resources guide how to facilitate active learning in large active learning classrooms on campus. These resources are organized around four types of learning activities that support:

  • Prior Knowledge activities assess students' learning of facts and principles. They measure how well students are learning the content they are studying and reveal how they are managing the accumulation of knowledge into their already established structures. Using these approaches, instructors can gauge how well the content is being or has been learned. 
  • Analysis and Critical Thinking activities assess students' skills at breaking down information, questions, or problems to understand and solve them more fully. Using these approaches, instructors can measure how well students interpret or analyze information and arrive at an informed decision or judgment.
  • Problem-solving activities assess how well students can analyze, evaluate, and apply information to solve a problem or draw a conclusion based on available evidence or information. Using these approaches, instructors can evaluate how well students can work within a given framework to come to a solution individually or collaboratively.
  • Discussion activities assess how well students can formulate their ideas and communicate them. Unlike large classroom discussions, these approaches place students in smaller groups to provide a structure for participation and opportunities to formulate and gather their thoughts, share and develop ideas with others, and rehearse their thoughts within a safer environment. Instructors can use these approaches to evaluate how well students recall, synthesize, and apply information in responding to a discussion prompt.
Active Learning Approaches
Critical Thinking
Prior Knowledge
Analytic Memo Buzz Group Background Knowledge Probe Analytic Team
Categorizing Grid Round Robin Empty Outlines Case Studies
Content, Form, & Function Talking Chips Focused Listing Send-A-Problem
Defining Features Matrix Think/Pair/Share Memory Matrix Structured Problem-Solving
Pro and Con Grid Three-Step Interview Minute Paper | Muddiest Point Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving


These activities are taken from the books Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook For College Teachers by Thomas Angelo and K. Patricia Cross, and Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty by Elizabeth F. Barkley, Claire Howell Major, and K. Patricia Cross — present activities you can use to address specific learning outcomes. Each approach includes a basic description, an overview of its outcomes, and steps to guide its use in your course. Each technique in this resource was selected based on three criteria: ease of design, implementation, and time needed to respond to the activity.

  • Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 159-180.
  • Barkley, Elizabeth F. et al. Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook For College Faculty. Wiley, 2014. pp. 152.

Keywordsactive learning, activities, ALC, active learning classroomsDoc ID118448
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-05-10 09:47:08Updated2024-04-16 14:32:00
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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