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Literature and Evidence to Support Active Learning

Evidence of Positive Impact

Bishop, C., Caston, M., & King, C. (2014). Learner-centered environments: Creating effective strategies
            based on student attitudes and faculty reflection. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and
            Learning, 14(3), 46-63. doi:

“Abstract: Learner-centered environments effectively implement multiple teaching techniques to enhance students’ higher education experience and provide them with greater control over their academic learning. This qualitative study involves an exploration of the eight reasons for learner-centered teaching found in Terry Doyle’s 2008 book, Helping Students Learn in a Learner Centered Environment. Doyle’s principles were investigated through the use of surveys, student focus group interviews, and faculty discussions to discover a deeper understanding of the effects a “learner-centered” teaching environment has on long term learning in comparison to a “teacher-centered” learning environment. These data revealed five primary themes pertaining to student resistance to learner-centered environments. The results assisted in the development of strategies educators can adopt for creating a successful learner-centered classroom.”

Doyle, T., & Zakrajsek, T. (2013). The new science of learning: how to learn in harmony with your brain.
           First edition. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.

Todd Zakrajsek is a highly published and sought after speaker in higher education and the Director of the Lilly Conferences for Evidence Based Teaching and Learning in higher education. He is also past Executive Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The New Science summarizes the neuroscience that supports active learning.

Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering
           Education, 93(3), 223-231. Retrieved from

This study examines the evidence for the effectiveness of active learning. It defines the common forms of active learning most relevant for engineering faculty and critically examines the core element of each method. It is found that there is broad but uneven support for the core elements of active, collaborative, cooperative, and problem-based learning.

Learning Theory

Anderson, L. W. (2001). A Taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: a revision of Bloom's
           Taxonomy of educational objectives. Complete ed. New York: Longman.

A Taxonomy describes and classifies learning based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) and provides insights for teaching and assessing.The text is written to guide teachers as they plan and prepare lessons and assessments to meet learning objectives.

Bransford, J. (2000). How people learn. Expanded ed. Washington,  D.C.: National Academy Press.

How People Learn offers an overview of the research in cognitive science that explains how people learn. Chapter 1 provides the foundational knowledge that supports the practice of active learning.

Design Process

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student engagement techniques: a handbook for college faculty. San
           Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Student Engagement Techniques is a heavily relied upon resources in many schools, and it is referenced often in literature and at conferences. This book provides practical activities intended to involve students in active learning. The book also offers a conceptual framework for understanding student engagement.

Weimer, M. (2013). Learner-Centered Teaching : Five Key Changes to Practice. 2nd ed. San Francisco: 

MaryEllen Weimer provides articles and workshops for Magna Publications and Faculty Focus. MaryEllen is a leader in the field of effective teaching and learning in higher education. Her books provide concrete strategies and practices supported by learning theory. She focuses on the function of content (lower order skills outside of class; active learning in class) and the responsibility for learning (on learner). Her work also has an emphasis on assessment and classroom management.

Wiggins, G. P.., McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Expanded 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association
Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Understanding by Design is a design framework developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The process is reflected in the ISA-ISS planning guide. The “backward” design process is widely accepted and taught in schools of education.


Active Learning in Higher Education, Sage Publishing

Active Learning in Higher Education is an international, refereed publication for all those who teach and support learning in Higher Education and those who undertake or use research into effective learning, teaching and assessment in universities and colleges. The journal has an objective of improving the status of teaching and learning support as professional activity and embraces academic practice across all curriculum areas in higher education.