Active Learning

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Small teaching approach: Expanding


Expanding is based on the theory that giving students an opportunity to make a positive difference in the world, immersing them in real-world problems and activities, and encouraging them to think creatively and collectively about all the logistics of the course creates a powerful learning experience. Expanding encourages you to expand your own view of what student learning might look like in your classroom, and how you might design and conduct your course. 

How to apply this approach

Activity-Based Learning — Activity-based learning involves fieldwork, public service, community-based research, and internships in conjunction with in-class work. This can be a semester-long endeavor, or it can exist as just a portion of a course. The main principle of this approach is simply to have the students do what experts or practitioners in the field would do. Service-Learning — Service-learning provides students with tangible opportunities to better their world while learning — providing an authentic source of motivation. The recommended principle behind this approach is to tap into students’ experiences, connections, and expertise. Find groups and individuals on your campus or discipline who can help you connect students to local organizations that need help. Games and Simulations — Kurt Squire, former Professor of Digital Media in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and games researcher at UW-Madison believes that “games are a good model for introducing a topic and raising interest because they situate content for learners so that they understand why it’s relevant.” One simulation approach is called Reacting to the Past, which was created by history professor Mark Carnes, and is comprised of role-immersion games. A guiding principle for incorporating games and simulations in your classroom is not to start from scratch, particularly if your discipline can utilize tried-and-tested materials.

Quick Tips


Lang, James M. Small teaching: Everyday lessons from the science of learning. John Wiley & Sons, 2016.pp.130-142.