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Active Learning approaches for traditional classrooms

Traditional Classroom Activities

These resources present guidance on ways of facilitating active learning in the classroom. 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 reveals 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 in order understand them more fully and solve them more efficiently. Using these approaches, instructors can measure how well students are able interpret or analyze information and arrive at an informed decision or judgement.
  • Problem-Solving activities assess how well students can analyze, evaluate, and apply information toward the goal of solving a problem or drawing 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 clearly. Unlike large classroom discussions, these approaches place students in smaller groups with the goal of providing them a structure for participation, opportunities to formulate and gather their thoughts, share and develop ideas with other, and rehearse their thoughts within a safer environment. Using these approaches, instructors can evaluate how well students recall, synthesize, and apply information in responding to a discussion prompt.
Activity Categories
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 Think/Pair/Share Memory Matrix Structured Problem-Solving
Pro and Con Grid Three-Step Interview Minute Paper | Muddiest Point Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving
Fishbowl Discussion


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 — presents activities you can use to address specific learning outcomes. Each approach includes a basic description and overview of its outcomes, along with steps to guide its use in your course. Each technique in this resource was selected based on three criteria: ease of design, ease of implementation, and time needed to respond to 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.

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No.Document TitleIDUpdatedHits
1 **** Engaging Students in a Traditional Classroom
2 Minute Paper / Muddiest Point (classroom)
3 Pro and Con Grid (classroom)
4 Memory Matrix (classroom)
5 Defining Features Matrix (classroom)
6 Think-Aloud Pair Problem-Solving (classroom)
7 Background Knowledge Probe (classroom)
8 Talking Chips (classroom)
9 Analytic Teams (classroom)
10 Case Studies (classroom)
11 Analytic Memo (classroom)
12 Buzz Groups (classroom)
13 Send-a-Problem (classroom)
14 Categorizing Grid (classroom)
15 Round Robin (classroom)
16 Structured Problem-Solving (classroom)
17 Content, Form, and Function Outlines (classroom)
18 Empty Outlines (classroom)
19 Focused Listing (classroom)
20 Three-Step Interview (classroom)

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