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Introduction to Active Learning. Energizing the Classroom. Brian Rybarczyk, Ph.D. UNC Chapel Hill Department of Biology. Objectives. Introduce concept of active learning Demonstrate techniques & activities Incorporate active learning into your future teaching .

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introduction to active learning

Introduction to Active Learning

Energizing the Classroom

Brian Rybarczyk, Ph.D.

UNC Chapel Hill

Department of Biology

  • Introduce concept of active learning
  • Demonstrate techniques & activities
  • Incorporate active learning into your future teaching
da vinci and the renaissance
da Vinci and the Renaissance

Embodies essence of the Renaissance

‘Rebirth’ of learning

Thinking outside the box




Change is good

brainstorm activity
Brainstorm Activity

Write down ways that your professors taught you

Effective methods

Ineffective methods

brainstorm activity ii
Brainstorm Activity II

What are some ways you learn best now as a scientist?

what is active learning

active learning


What is Active Learning?


% Retained









Time of class (min)

From: McKeachie, Teaching tips: Strategies, research and theory forfor college and university teachers, Houghton-Mifflin (1998)

what is active learning2

Problem-Based Learning

Learn By Doing

Inquiry-based learning

Cooperative Learning

What is Active Learning?

students solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during class

Active Learning

what is the purpose
What is the purpose?
  • Increase student participation
  • Increase student engagement
  • Increase student retention
  • More student ownership in course
  • Less lecturing by instructor
  • More exciting classroom experience
  • Higher level thinking
improving lectures
Improving Lectures
  • Plan objectives
  • Include graphics, charts, graphs, etc
  • Plan what you want to annotate
  • Learn students’ names
  • Cue important points
  • Give short activities
  • Give students time to generate questions
  • Have students summarize major points
examples of active learning
Examples of Active Learning
  • Dr. Robert Beichner – NCSU
    • SCALE-UP – researching effectiveness of active learning in physics and chemistry
    • Example of SCALE-UP Activity
active techniques
Active Techniques
  • Think-pair-share (pair-share)
  • Role playing, simulations
  • Muddiest point/clearest point
  • Group quizzing
  • Generate lists
  • Cooperative learning
  • Minute papers and writing assignments
  • PBL and case studies
  • Concept maps
reading primary literature
Reading Primary Literature
  • Provide one figure/table to each student group
  • Propose a title for the paper
  • Delete abstract and have students write a summary
concerns issues
Concerns & Issues

What are your concerns about using active learning activities & techniques?

  • Describe to the students what is happening and why
  • State expectations
  • Incorporate assessments with activities
  • Start off simple (low risk)
  • Ask questions, walk around classroom, be attentive to student questions
  • Have students rely on each other

National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (case study collection):

Problem Based Learning (U of Delaware):

MERLOT – (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching

Journals of Interest:


CBE Life Science Education –

Journal of College Science Teaching –

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education –