Active Engagement

Students looking at a piece of paper

Discipline-based education researchers have developed many instructional strategies designed to improve students’ conceptual understanding, problem solving skills, epistemological beliefs about learning science and the nature of science etc. One feature of many of these instructional strategies is that they all promote some form of active engagement and promote interactions in which students are involved. Courses which include significant student active engagement have been shown to lead to increased student learning in: 

Student interactions can be of different types:

  • Student-instructor interactions, which define the classroom relationship between the instructor and the students (e.g., the role of the instructor in class)

  • Student-content interaction, which define how students interact with course material (e.g., reflection activities, connecting concepts to students’ lives)

    • These can also be interactions between students and artifacts, such as equipment, personal response systems (clickers), problem worksheets etc.

  • Student-student interactions, which define how students interact with one another (e.g., collaborative problem solving, classroom discussions in small groups followed by full class discussion, small group work, students actively criticizing each other’s’ ideas, etc.)

Courses which promote significant student active engagement typically have the following in common:

  • The course is centered around what students do and how they engage with one another in class

  • Laboratories are based on or include significant aspects of guided inquiry in which students are directed to discover important ideas

  • Students are expected to be physically and/or intellectually active during class