University of Nebraska Medical Center

Six Simple Ways to “Activate” Your Lecture

Many instructors have heard about “active learning” and likely at some point been implored to incorporate it into their teaching. The term often engenders images of large scale group activities, use of tools that take a great deal of effort to create, or things that are time intensive. At its simplest, “Active Learning” is anything other than passively listening to an instructor deliver content. Even if you are giving a lecture, there are easy strategies to incorporate active learning into your lessons that take at most 5-10 minutes.

1. Quiz questions

Designed to help students use the material and gauge their understanding, these can take the form of multiple choice or short answer questions embedded in the lecture or at the end. While some may choose to use electronic polling, even a simple raising of hands can accomplish the same task. For best effect, the multiple choice questions should be similar in difficulty level to relevant assessment items and mirror your learning objectives.

2. Generation of test questions

At the end of a lecture, have each student generate a test question that he or she would write based on the content they were just presented using lecture objectives as a guide. These can be collected and analyzed to see if students are identifying the major points of the lecture. As a “reward,” well-written questions can be utilized on assessments.

3. Think-pair-share

Often used at the end of a lecture or at the beginning of one in a series, students are paired and presented with a high-order problem related to the learning objectives such as a case vignette. They are given a short period of time to think about their responses, discuss them with a partner, and then share their collaborative ideas with the rest of the class.

4. Oneminute paper

Students are given one or two open-ended questions to answer based on the lecture’s learning objectives. Learners are given a few minutes to answer the question on a piece of paper and the responses are collected. The lecturer can later post the “true” answer, as well as provide feedback based on an analysis of the group’s perceived understanding.

5. Round robin

Split the class into groups of 4-5. Provide a high-level concept based on a learning objective and have the students pass around a piece of paper in which they each write down facts or information related to the concept for a specified time or number of “rounds.”

6. Answer the objectives

Following the lecture, divide the students into small groups and have them provide answers to the learning objectives. The responses can be collected for analysis and feedback.


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