Active and Cooperative Learning


Active learning is the process of involving students in the learning process through reading, writing, acting, moving, problem solving, discussing, etc. Involving students in the process gives them a deeper understanding of the material and leads to higher order thinking about class materials. After having incorporated active learning in my classes, I have become a strong advocate for active learning.

students consulting with Dr. McConnell during group workActive learning requires that students be active in the classroom. This can include doing problems, working with groups, participating in discussions, answering questions that require more than just facts, writing essays, or any other activity that is not just listening to a lecture. The basis for active learning is that students learn more and better when they are participants in the learning process. It has also been found that student attention span starts to dramatically decrease about 12-15 minutes after the start of a lecture. By breaking up the lecture, students are able to keep their attention up, and therefore learn more.

Cooperative learning puts student together to solve problems or discuss concepts that leads to greater understanding. Group activities also give students better social skills. Group work can be out of class projects, but this site concentrates on activities that can be done in the classroom. Groups can be informal (those students who happen to be sitting together) or formal (assigned by the instructor). Groups can be short-term (for one or a few activities) or long-term (for one semester to a number of years).

There are a number of types of exercises that can be used in an active and cooperative learning setting. These exercises include modified lectures, think-pair-share, discussion questions, polls, textbook exercises, algorithm tracing, drama/role playing, and demonstration software. (These links open in a new window.) Additional information on drama/role playing exercises can also be found on the Kinesthetic Learning Activities web site.

The rest of this active and cooperative learning site gives information about how I use active and cooperative learning.  For other, more general material, see my on-line annotated bibliography.

  • Getting Started
  • Introducing Students to Active and Cooperative Learning
  • A Typical Class
  • Evaluation Mechanisms
  • The Paper Shuffle
  • Organizing for Class
  • Attendance
  • Peer Evaluation
  • Grade Record Keeping
  • My Active and Cooperative Learning Publications
  • Past and Future Workshops
  • Sample Activities
  • Other Active and Cooperative Learning Sites

  • All opinions represented on this page are mine. No assumption should be made based on these statements about Canisius College, the Canisius College Computer Science Department, or the Canisius College faculty, staff, and students.

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    Last updated July 24, 2005 by Dr. Jeffrey J. McConnell