University of Minnesota Duluth

What is an Active Learning (Flipped) Classroom?

The intention of active learning classrooms is to move from a traditional, passive, lecture-based model of instruction into an active, collaborative, inquiry-based model. This sort of classroom is inspired by the Scale-Up model (Student-Centered Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies) from North Carolina State University. It is also often referred to as a "flipped" classroom.

Active learning is a mode of instruction that can be done in traditional classrooms but it can also be enhanced with various levels of technology. A key function of the technology is facilitating and enabling small-group learning with ease of sharing.

Characteristics of an Active Learning Space

As the Scale-Up Web site illuminates characteristics of an Active Learning space are:

  • Most of the class time is spent on "tangibles", "ponderables," and "visibles." Essentially these are hands-on activities, interesting questions and problems, or simulations.
  • There is some lecturing, but that is mostly to provide motivation and a view of the "big picture," which is difficult for students to see when they are not familiar with the entire course content.
  • If you are lecturing for more than 15 minutes in a typical 50-minute period, you are probably talking too much.
  • Most of the class time is spent with the students working together. As an individual or group figures something out, they naturally (because of the way the class and room are structured) tend to share what they've learned with others.
  • Things that used to take place inside the classroom, like content delivery, now take place primarily outside the formal learning space.

The more advanced applications of the content, along with anything they don't understand from their preparatory work, is discussed in class where they have the instructor and their peers nearby to help.

For further information please consult the Scale-Up Project and Flipped Teaching.

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