Active Learning



In Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning Bowen (2012) states that “the term active learning includes a wide range of pedagogies from class writing and discussion to role-playing and lab work as well as collaborative, cooperative, and problem-based learning.” (p.192, italics in original).  Bowen (2012) then goes on to discuss the fact that these pedagogies are unified by the fact that students are having to do more than just listen passively to the content being taught or take notes.  The students are getting involved and actively participating so they are more engaged in the lessons.

As quoted in Teaching Naked, Prince (2004) “found that the use of class time for active, cooperative, or problem-based learning resulted in improved retention, greater facility in application, and deeper understanding of content in a wide variety of disciplines.” (p.193).  Regardless of the subject matter that is being taught, there is an opportunity in every classroom to promote student engagement through the use of active learning activities.


As educators it is our duty to deliver course content to our students.  The way in which we deliver this content is up to us, however, I feel that most educators would agree that incorporating active learning exercises into the classroom is a great way to get students engaged in the content they are learning.  As an educator I strive hard to ensure that my students are engaged with the course content so in the past I have used a lot of active learning strategies to help do so.  One technique that I use most readily in my nursing classes is case-based learning.

Using a case-based approach engages students in discussion of specific   scenarios that resemble or typically are real-world examples. This method is learner-centered with intense interaction between participants as they build their knowledge and work together as a group to examine the case. (Queen’s University, n.d., para.1).

As discussed in the resource What is Case-Based Learning? the benefits of using a case-based approach to learning are that it “provides students with a relevant opportunity to see theory in practice, requires students to analyze data in order to reach a conclusion, and develops analytic, communicative and collaborative skills along with content knowledge. (Queen’s University, n.d., para.3-5).  I believe that by using this approach for teaching I am helping to develop my students into critical thinkers as they are now being required to become the decision makers.


Case-based learning has been linked with the effective development of critical                  thinking, problem solving, clinical reasoning and analysis, which in turn are             characteristics of a deep approach to learning. It also can be used to facilitate a model of self-directed and reflective learning that serves students very well in future courses and careers. (University of Saskatchewan, n.d., para.3).

Helping to create self-directed and reflective learners is very significant task for educators in the 21st century.  With the rate at which information is so easily accessed in today’s society it is important to encourage and support the development of these skills and abilities within our students.  Not only are self-directed and reflective learners more likely to become life-long learners, they are also more likely to fully participate in the active learning process.  Therefore, by incorporating active learning strategies in our classrooms we are better able to equip our students with the skills needed to succeed in society today.


In the past I have had many students comment that they really enjoy the use of the active learning strategies I implement in my classrooms.  Not only do the students enjoy active learning activities but these activities provide a multitude of benefits for the students that they even notice.  I have had comments such as “that game of jeopardy we played yesterday in class really helped me to remember some of the significant dates in nursing history that I was struggling with” or “that role-playing exercise really helped me to learn some effective communication techniques to use with patients”.

Not only are my students noticing the benefits but I too can see how much better the students retain the information that is taught during active learning activities as opposed to during a lecture.  In the past when reviewing exam content and grades I have noticed that students typically do better and score higher on the content that was introduced with an active learning strategy.  As quoted in Teaching Naked Hake (1998) “found that those (students) using interactive pedagogies scored nearly twice as high as those in traditional lectures on tests of conceptual understanding.” (Bowen, 2012, p.194).  This alone is enough to convince me to continue with my use of active learning strategies within my classrooms.

Not only do I plan to continue using active learning strategies within my classroom I am pushing myself further and trying some new forms of active learning in the upcoming semesters.  I have just completed course development for a community health course I will be teaching this winter and in this course I have designed a community service project as the main assignment.  I have never incorporated a community service project into any course I have taught before, however, I have been involved in starting a community service project that was very successful and is still in progress today.  My own success with this type of active learning was my inspiration to try it with my own students, I can only hope that my students get as much out of their community service project as I did out of mine.



Bowen, J. (2012).  Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Queen’s University (n.d.). What is Case-Based Learning?  Retrieved from   

University of Saskatchewan (n.d.). Case-Based Learning.  Retrieved from