17 August 2023

Knowledge item

Active Learning

In this article Active Learning will be explained. Active learning put a focus on activating students to participate in the lecture or seminar. By challenging them to think about what they’re learning and by activating them to reflect on the presented knowledge, a higher level of learning can be achieved.

Definition and effect of active learning

There are three aspects of active learning. The first is the behavioral aspect, describes the active use and development of resources of knowledge. Secondly, the cognitive aspect, describes the active thinking about experiences to make sense of them and promote knowledge construction. Lastly, the social aspect, describes the active interaction with others as both collaborators and resources of knowledge (Kozanitis & Nenciovici, 2022).

Studies have shown that in multiple fields of research, such as the STEM-field or the humanities, student performance is improved when participating in active learning. Students who usually performed at the 50th percentile of the group, now moved up to the 68th percentile. Results also showed that students who were participating in active learning had a score increase of 0.3 points (Freeman et al., 2014).

Practical information

On the Teaching and Learning Collection website there are various articles that can help you to implement active learning in your classes.

Researchers from UMC Utrecht have also developed a practical guide for implement active learning in your teaching.

Note: This article is only presented in Dutch.


Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., &       Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences111(23), 8410-8415.

Kozanitis, A., & Nenciovici, L. (2022). Effect of active learning versus traditional lecturing on    the learning achievement of college students in humanities and social sciences: a meta-analysis. Higher Education, 1-18.


You are free to share and adapt, if you give appropriate credit and use it non-commercially. More on Creative Commons


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