Weekly Digest #25: Active Learning

Weekly Digest #25: Active Learning

Almost a year ago now, Dr. Molly Worthen (@MollyWorthen) posted an opinion piece in the New York Times called “Lecture Me. Really.”. The piece received a lot of praise and criticism from many sources and for many reasons, but the debate focused on one over-arching theme… Do we need active learning and can active learning be found in a lecture? While our understanding of the evidence is best saved for a later blog post, today we want to provide you with a list of several resources that discuss some of the evidence for active learning. We are not taking a particular side in a debate, but rather providing resources for your consideration.

Image from “ Lecture Me. Really. ”

Image from “Lecture Me. Really.


1) Active Learning is Not Our Enemy: A Response to Molly Worthen by Josh Eyler (@joshua_r_eyler).

We start with a response to the NYTimes piece, which includes a considerable amount of evidence. This post is written with a balanced approach to onsider the relative benefits and problems with lectures and active learning.


2) Does Active Learning Work? A Review Of The Research by Michael Prince

In this article, Michael Prince points out several of the different advantages that active learning might have and analyzes the existing evidence in support of active learning. While there are certainly gaps in said literature and most approaches combine lecture and active learning components, the overall finding is that active learning activities are useful for a number of reasons.


3) Active Learning In The Classroom – Now What? by Claire Gravelin (@clairegravelin)

If you are already aware of the evidence in this area, this article provides support for continuing to add and improve active learning through classroom data.

Image from linked source

Image from linked source


4) Active Retrieval by PsychBrief (@PsyBrief)

Here’s an interesting idea: Maybe many of the activities that we promote on this site can be considered active learning! By engaging in retrieval practice, students are actively processing material. Even in the articles above, retrieval is mentioned as one of the primary forces behind active learning. So perhaps we should call retrieval practice “active retrieval” instead. This article provides evidence for using “active retrieval” in the classroom.


5) Active And Cooperative Learning by Donald Paulson and Jennifer Faust

If you are now convinced that you should implement some aspects of active learning in your classroom, this article provides ideas for activities. Also included is a long list of additional sources of evidence to show that active learning may be beneficial.

Every Sunday, we pick a theme and provide a curated list of links. If you have a theme suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Our 5 most recent digests can be found here:

Weekly Digest #20: Plagiarism

Weekly Digest #21: Academic Blog Reading List

Weekly Digest #22: The First Day of Class

Weekly Digest #23: The Myth of Multitasking

Weekly Digest #24: Educational Videos