Feed on

It has long been established that student attention often begins to decline after 10 to 15 minutes of lecture (Stuart, John, & Rutherford, 1978); retention also drops considerably after the first 10 minutes (Hartley & Davies, 1978).  This can be problematic when your class lasts for an hour and fifteen minutes! Utilizing active learning strategies can help. Active learning is “getting all students to do something course-related in class other than just watching and listening to the instructor and taking notes.” (Felder and Brent 2016).

Here are a few active learning techniques to try in the classroom


  • Frayer Model – a graphic organizer, originally used for vocabulary building
  • See-Think-Wonder – “for exploring works of art and other interesting things” (Harvard)
  • K-W-L chart – helps activate prior knowledge and link it to new information.
  • Think (Write)-Pair-Share – Have students work individually on a problem, then compare their responses with a partner and synthesize a joint solution to share with the entire class.
  • Muddiest point paper – At the end of class or just before a break, ask : “What was the muddiest (least clear) point from today’s session?” and give students 1-2 minutes to write brief responses to turn in anonymously as they leave the classroom
  • Peer Instruction – Small group discussion of conceptual questions interspersed with lectures


  • Jigsaw – a collaborative group activity where participants teach each other
  • Gallery Walk – participants explore multiple texts or images placed around the room.
  • Fish bowl – allows a small group of students to engage in a discussion about ideas or concepts that have alternative explanations while the rest of the class observes and takes notes.
  • Four Corners – choose one of four options and move to the corresponding corner
  • Round Robin – an iterative technique for generating ideas, building on consecutive contributions.
  • Graffiti Board – a shared space where participants write comments and questions.

Books in the Kaneb Center library
1. Barkley, Elizabeth. 2010. Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass.
2. Bruff, Derek. 2009. Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments. Jossey-Bass.
3. Rice, Gail Taylor. 2018. Hitting Pause: 65 Lecture Breaks to Refresh and Reinforce Learning. Stylus Publishing.


Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2016). Teaching and learning STEM: A practical guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Stuart, J., & Rutherford, R. J. D. (1978). Medical student concentration during lectures. The lancet, 312(8088), 514-516.

Hartley, J., & Davies, I. K. (1978). Note‐taking: A critical review. Programmed learning and educational technology, 15(3), 207-224.

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