Active learning techniques are known to improve student
learning outcomes by one to two standard deviations, as compared to lectures
without active learning.1-5
A number of active learning techniques have proven efficacy.
Below is a selection of tips that require relatively small modifications to
your existing lecture to have positive impacts on learning outcomes.
Pause every 8-15 minutes6 to do one of the
- Allow learners to make notes on what has been
covered. This allows learners to consolidate the material in short-term, and
possibly long-term, memory.
- Ask learners to discuss material covered to this
point with their peers. This allows learners to check their understanding of
the concepts presented, and either get clarification from a peer, or realize
they need to ask questions of you.
- Ask learners to answer a question verbally, with
a show of hands, or with an audience response system.2-4 This gives
you a ‘snapshot’ of what learners are understanding – and misunderstanding – so
you can correct them before moving to the next concept.
- Work on solving a problem related to the content
presented to date5. This allows learners to apply what has been
taught, and checks deeper levels of their comprehension of the material
- Present cases or scenarios and invite students
to choose appropriate investigations, vote on differential diagnosis, etc.1
Such activities require application of material presented in the future context
of medical practice, which may aid in transferring knowledge to clinical
- Van Dijken, P.C., et al., Evaluation of an
online, case-based interactive approach to teaching pathophysiology. Med Teach,
2008. 30: p. 131-136.
- Johnson, J.P. and A. Mighten, A comparison
of teaching strategies: lecture notes combined with structured group discussion
versus lecture only. J Nursing Educ, 2005. 44(319-322).
- Oswald, A.E., et al., The effects of
audience response systems on learning outcomes in health professions
education–A Systematic Review: BEME Guide 21. Medical Teacher, 2012. 34(6): p.
- Crouch, C.H. and E. Mazur, Peer instruction:
Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics, 2001. 69(9):
- Hake, R., Interactive-engagement versus traditional
methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory
physics courses. American Journal of Physics, 1998. 66: p. 64-74.
- Ambrose, S., et al., How Learning Works.
2010, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.