Learning Activities and Teaching Strategies

Most of these approaches to teaching and learning are applicable to large, medium-sized, and small classes alike. Most are applicable to all disciplines. The Center for Research on Teaching and Learning Excellence recommends the following as starting points for those beginning exploration: active learning, peer instruction, and team-based learning. Additional recommendations include: case-based learning, “flipping a classroom,” guided reflection, inquiry learning, and service learning. The remaining methodologies add further ideas on current thought in teaching and learning.



Popularized by the American educator, Malcolm Knowles, andragogy is the “art and science of helping adults learn.” Adult college students, as engaged learners, actively seek learning.

“Andragogy assumes that the point at which an individual achieves a self-concept of essential self-direction is the point at which he psychologically becomes adult. A very critical thing happens when this occurs: the individual develops a deep psychological need to be perceived by others as being self-directing. Thus, when he finds himself in a situation in which he is not allowed to be self-directing, he experiences a tension between that situation and his self-concept. His reaction is bound to be tainted with resentment and resistance.

It is my own observation that those students who have entered a professional school or a job have made a big step toward seeing themselves as essentially self-directing. They have largely resolved their identity-formation issues; they are identified with an adult role. Any experience that they perceive as putting them in the position of being treated as children is bound interface (sic) with their learning.” -Malcolm Knowles

Knowles’ Five Assumptions of Adult Learners:

  1. Self-Concept: As a person matures his/her self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being.
  2. Adult Learner Experience: As a person matures he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
  3. Readiness to Learn: As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his/her social roles.
  4. Orientation to Learning: As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application. As a result his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject- centeredness to one of problem centeredness.
  5. Motivation to Learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal.

Knowles’ Four Principles of Andragogy:

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.


Flipping the Classroom

Flipping the classroom (also known as “inverting” the classroom) is an approach to classroom engagement where students are responsible for learning outside of class, while in-class time is devoted to experimentation, communication, application, and deeper thinking under the guidance of the instructor. In-class activities might involve helping students work through course material individually and in groups. There are a number of ways to flip a classroom. Below are resources, strategies, and examples to help you determine what kind of flip is best for your courses.

The Flipped Class: Rethinking Space & Time


How to Get Started

How Do You Flip a Class? – A guide created by the Faculty Innovation Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Inverted Classroom – An article by Robert Talbert of Grand Valley State University
6 Expert Tips for Flipping the Classroom – An article written by Jennifer Demski of Campus Technology


Common Activites

  • Active Learning
  • Collaborative Learning
  • Cased-based Learning
  • Problem-based Learning
  • Groupwork and Peer Instruction


Examples of Flipped Classrooms

  • Leaving lectures behind – An article written by Jimmy Ryals, on a flipped Physics classroom using the SCALE-UP model at North Carolina State University.
  • Flipped Classroom Example – Biology professor, Brian White, of the University of Massachusetts at Boston, discusses how he teaches a flipped classroom.


Active Learning

Active learning requires students to participate in class, as opposed to sitting and listening quietly. Strategies include, but are not limited to, brief question-and-answer sessions, discussion integrated into the lecture, impromptu writing assignments, hands-on activities and experiential learning events. As you think of integrating active learning strategies into your course, consider ways to set clear expectations, design effective evaluation strategies and provide helpful feedback.

The major characteristics of Active Learning are:

  • Students are involved in more than passive listening
  • Students are engaged in activities (e.g., reading, discussing, writing)
  • There is less emphasis placed on information transmission and greater emphasis placed on developing student skills
  • There is greater emphasis placed on the exploration of attitudes and values
  • Student motivation is increased
  • Students can receive immediate feedback from their instructor
  • Students are involved in higher order thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation)


The benefits of Active Learning are:

  • Develops collaborative skills
  • Encourages risk taking
  • Increases engagement
  • Improves critical thinking
  • Increases retention
  • Stimulates creative thinking
  • Fosters problem solving


Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is the process of dividing a classroom into small groups so that students can work together to discover a new concept, solve a problem, and help each other learn. The fundamental core of cooperative learning is to demonstrate the positive effects of interdependence while highlighting the importance of personal responsibility.

Team Based Learning with Dr. Michael Sweet

 Five Key Elements of Cooperative Learning:

  1. Positive Interdependence
  2. Individual Accountability
  3. Face-to-face Interaction
  4. Interpersonal and Small Group Social Skills
  5. Group Processing


Team-Based Learning

According to the Team-Based Learning Collaborative, Team-Based Learning (TBL) is an “evidence based collaborative learning teaching strategy designed around units of instruction, known as “modules,” that are taught in a three-step cycle: preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing, and application-focused exercise. A class typically includes one module.”

TBL consists of modules that can be taught in a 3-step process: preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing (IRAT), and application-focused exercises.

More information can be found at Team-Based Learning Collaborative.


Peer Instruction

Pioneered by Harvard professor Dr. Eric Mazur in the 1990s, Peer Instruction is an evidence-based, interactive teaching method that shifts the instructor from delivering content to facilitating discussions among the students by asking them a question that sparks discussion. In a hypothetical scenario, students formulate an answer to a conceptual question, share it with a partner, compare their reasoning, come to a consensus, then submit their answer. In this way, the instructor becomes a “guide on the side.”

Overview of the Peer Instruction process:

  1. Ask a question that sparks discussion (multiple choice if using clickers)
  2. (Optional) have students vote individually on the choice they believe is correct
  3. Have students discuss the question and answer choices with peers
  4. Have students vote on the correct answer (or share their answer if not multiple choice)
  5. Discuss the possible answer choices as a class
  6. Show the correct answer and any follow-up discussion related to this answer. If using clickers you can show the aggregate data of student responses.


More Resources



  1. Atherton, J.S. (2013) Learning and Teaching; Knowles’ andragogy: an angle on adult learning [On-line: UK]. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20160305005428/
  2. Bronwell, C. C., & Elson, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. Washington, DC: School of Education and Human Development, George Washington University.
  3. Flipping the Classroom. (2020). Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Washington. Retrieved from https://www.washington.edu/teaching/topics/
  4. [GoGlobalFIU]. (2012, July 24). Team Based Learning (TBL) Workshop with Dr. Michael Sweet – PART 1 of 2. YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSpyLRX9meY
  5. Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.
  6. Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  7. “Peer Instruction”. (n.d.). University Teaching and Learning Center. George Washington University. Retrieved from https://library.gwu.edu/utlc/teaching/peer-instruction
  8. [UT Faculty Innovation Center]. (2013, July 23). What is a flipped class?. Vimeo. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/70893101
  9. “What is Cooperative Learning”. (n.d.). Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience. Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College School. Retrieved from https://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/cooperative/whatis.html