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Last Updated: Jul 25, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Active-Learning and Project-Based Learning Print Page

Definition: Active learning and project based learning

Active learning is an umbrella term that refers to several models of instruction that focus the responsibility of learning on learners. Bonwell and Eison (1991) popularized this approach to instruction. 

Project-based learning (PBL) is considered an alternative to paper-based, rote memorization, teacher-led classrooms. Markham (2011) describes project-based learning (PBL) as: " PBL integrates knowing and doing. Students learn knowledge and elements of the core curriculum, but also apply what they know to solve authentic problems and produce results that matter. PBL students take advantage of digital tools to produce high quality, collaborative products. PBL refocuses education on the student, not the curriculum--a shift mandated by the global world, which rewards intangible assets such as drive, passion, creativity, empathy, and resiliency. These cannot be taught out of a textbook, but must be activated through experience."




Lederman, D. (2014). A Boost for Active Learning. Inside Higher Ed (May 13).

Millis, Barbara J. (2012). Active Learning Strategies in Face-to-Face Courses. IDEA Paper #53: 1-8.

Pazos-Lago, P., Olds, S.A., & Linsenmeier, R.A. (2007). Using technology to enhance active learning in the classroom. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education, Honolulu.

Active Learning Strategies

Books on active learning

  • Active Learning: Models from the Analytical Sciences P. A. Mabrouk (Ed.), QD40.A28 2007
  • Sociology Through Active Learning: Student Exercises K. McKinney, F. D. Beck, & B. S. Heyl, HM575 .M39 2001
  • Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject M. Silberman, LB1027.23 .S556 1996
  • Promoting Active Learning: Strategies for the College Classroom C.Meyers &T. B. Jones, B1027.23 .M49 1993
  • Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments D. Bruff LB1027.23 .B78 2009
  • Using Active Learning in College Classes: A Range of Options for Faculty T. E. Sutherland & C. C. Bonwell (Eds.) LB1027.23 .U85 1996

Project based learning - tools

  • Mindmeister - This tool is great for mapping out ideas. It’s great for collaborative brainstorming in project planning and analysing concepts. Free app available from the Apple Store, and for Android users.
  • Glogster - This creative tool is excellent for creating digital posters and other multimedia projects. It can be used as a ‘pre-tool’ for a major project, or simply to highlight research.
  • Myhistro - This versatile browser-based tool enables students to combine blogging, videos and photographs on interactive Google Earth and Google Maps. MyHistro’s chronological timeline makes it great for collaborative tasks, multimedia projects and presentations in History, Geography and Social Science. 
  • Pixton - A fun web based tool for creative storytelling. This dynamic comic building site is easy to use and great in English Literature. Interactive features such as variety of expressions, background templates and images make classroom activities interesting and let students creativity flow.
  • Reeldirector - Similar to iMovie only this useful tool comes with advanced features in video making. It’s simple to use and has many features from stitching together clips to putting transitions between video clips to smooth the flow of the video.
  • Animoto - A fun tool for creating slideshows of field trips and learning concepts. You can illustrate your project with videos, photos and text. Simply choose a video style and add your visual material.
  • VoiceThread - A versatile tool used for commenting on any type of media, from videos to photos. It’s especially useful in foreign language classes. Also great for group projects, adding voice comments to an image or a story.
  • FotoBabble  - ‘Talking photos’, a tool used to record a voiceover for an image in a slideshow format. It’s great for collaborative projects telling a story of a photo or an event. In the classroom, students can start a project by analysing a concept or a story and import audio from another source.
  • Audioboo  - A similar tool to FotoBabble. This voiceover tool is excellent for telling stories of a photograph and other visual projects. It supports recordings from other devices, allows users to tag a location and enter a small description. 
  • Capzles  - This browser-based tool introduces a different take on digital storytelling. Users can choose from variety of templates, share visual stories and narratives with a soundtrack in chronological order. Can be used for simple stories and more in depth multimedia projects. 
  • Dipity - A browser based tool for sharing stories on an interactive timeline. Users can import media from other sources and combine images, photos and text into a story. Students have a choice of theme style for display when creating new events. Dipity is great for mapping content visually in History and Social Science.
  • Popplet - A versatile tool for planning that can be used as a mind map illustrated with drawings, photos and videos. This easy to use interactive tool is ideal for generating concepts, creating galleries and adding comments.

Selet Books and Articles



Cover Art
Student Engagement Techniques - Barkley, Elizabeth F.
ISBN: 9780470281918
Publication Date: Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, ©2010.
From the Publisher: Keeping students involved, motivated, and actively learning is challenging educators across the country, yet good advice on how to accomplish this has not been readily available. Student Engagement Techniques is a comprehensive resource that offers college teachers a dynamic model for engaging students and includes over one hundred tips, strategies, and techniques that have been proven to help teachers from a wide variety of disciplines and institutions motivate and connect with their students. The ready-to-use format shows how to apply each of the book's techniques in the classroom and includes purpose, preparation, procedures, examples, online implementation, variations and extensions, observations and advice, and key resources.

Cover Art
Authoring Your Life - Baxter Magolda, Marcia B.
ISBN: 1441617574
Publication Date: 2009-01-01

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Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide To Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, And Active Learning In The Classroom - Bean, John C.
Call Number: UMCP McK Folio PE1404 .B35 1996
ISBN: 9780787902032
Publication Date: Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, ©1996.

Cover Art
Active Learning - Bonwell, Charles C. ; James A. Eison; Jonathan D. Fife (Editor); AEHE Staff
Call Number: UMCP McK Stacks LB1027.23 .B66 1991
ISBN: 9781878380081
Publication Date: ASHE-ERIC higher education report, 1991, no. 1. Washington, D.C. : School of Education and Human Dev

Cover Art
Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher - Brookfield, Stephen D.
ISBN: 0787901318
Publication Date: 1995-10-13
Building on the insights of his highly acclaimed earlier work, The Skillful Teacher, Stephen D. Brookfield offers a very personal and accessible guide to how faculty at any level and across all disciplines can improve their teaching. Applying the principles of adult learning, Brookfield thoughtfully guides teachers through the processes of becoming critically reflective about teaching, confronting the contradictions involved in creating democratic classrooms, and using critical reflection as a tool for continuous personal and professional development.

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Faculty learning community : program director's handbook and facilitator's handbook. - Cox, Milton D. (Editor)
ISBN: 9780787975685
Publication Date: 5th ed. Miami University, Ohio : Milton D. Cox, ©2008.

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Whole Brain® Learning in Higher Education - de Boer, Ann-Louise ; Theo Bothma; Detken Scheepers; Pieter du Toit
Call Number: UMCP has ebook
ISBN: 9781780634081
Publication Date: Chandos learning and teaching series. Burlington : Elsevier Science, 2013.
Facilitating of learning in higher education can be transformed through the use of Whole Brain® learning. Whole Brain® Learning in Higher Education argues that facilitating learning in Higher Education should undergo transformation in order to develop the full academic potential of all stakeholders following the principles of action research. Empirical data was collected from participants in a number of projects across diverse disciplines. Participants included students, academic staff, instructional designers, and professionals attending short courses at tertiary level.

Cover Art
Creating Significant Learning Experiences - Fink, L. Dee
Call Number: EBook available from multiple USM libraries
ISBN: 9781118124253
Publication Date: New York : JOHN WILEY & SONS INC, 2013.
In this thoroughly updated edition of L. Dee Fink's bestselling classic, he discusses new research on how people learn, active learning, and the effectiveness of his popular model; adds more examples from online teaching; and further focuses on the impact of student engagement on student learning.

Cover Art
The Art of Discussion-Based Teaching - Henning, John
Call Number: EBook
ISBN: 9780415956338
Publication Date: New York : Routledge. 2008
Available as Ebook from UMCP Libraries. EBSCO Host.

Active Learning - Johnson, David W.; Roger T. Johnson; Karl A. Smith
Call Number: UMCP McK Lib Folio LB1032 .J65
ISBN: 9780939603145
Publication Date: Edina, MN : Interaction Book Co. ©1991.

Cover Art
Assessing for Learning - Maki, Peggy L.
Call Number: UMCP McK Stacks LB2366.2 .M35 2004
ISBN: 1579220886
Publication Date: Sterling, Va. : Stylus, 2004.

Cover Art
Promoting Active Learning: strategies for the college classroom - Meyers, Chet; Thomas B. Jones
Call Number: SG Stacks LB1027.23 .M49 1993; UMCP McK Stacks LB1027.23 .M49 1993
ISBN: 9781555425241
Publication Date: Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, ©1993.
"A growing body of research today points to active learning strategies - in which students talk and listen, read, write, and reflect as they become directly involved in the instructional process - as a way to better engage students, cultivate critical thinking, and improve the overall quality of teaching and learning." "This book offers a practical guide to successful strategies for active learning. Presenting a wide range of teaching tools - including problem-solving exercises, cooperative student projects, informal group work, simulations, case studies, role playing, and similar activities that ask students to apply what they are learning - Promoting Active Learning draws on the classroom experiences and tips of teachers from a variety of disciplines."-

Cover Art
Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace - Palloff, Rena M. ; Keith Pratt
Call Number: UMCP McK Stacks LC5805 .P35 1999
ISBN: 0787944602
Publication Date: Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass Publishers, ©1999.
Written for faculty, instructors, and trainers in any distance learning environment, Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace shows how to create a virtual classroom environment that helps students excel academically, while fostering a sense of community. This practical, hands-on guide is filled with illustrative case studies, vignettes, and examples from a wide variety of successful online courses.

Cover Art
Building Faculty Learning Communities - Richlin, Laurie (Editor); Milton D. Cox (Editor)
Call Number: UMCP McK Stacks LB2331.7 .B83 2004
ISBN: 0787975680
Publication Date: 2004-05-21
Changing our colleges and universities into learning institutions has become increasingly important while also becoming more difficult. Faculty learning communities have proven to be effective for addressing institutional challenges, from preparing the faculty of the future and reinvigorating senior faculty, to implementing new courses, curricula, and campus initiatives on diversity and technology. The results of faculty learning community programs parallel for faculty members the results of student learning communities for students, such as retention, deeper learning, respect for other cultures, and greater civic participation. The chapters in this issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning describe from a practitioner's perspective the history, development, implementation, and results of faculty learning communities across a wide range of institutions and purposes. Institutions are invited to use this volume to initiate faculty learning communities on their campuses.

Cover Art
Blueprint for Learning - Richlin, Laurie ; Shirley Ronkowski (Introduction by)
Call Number: UMCP McK Lib Stacks LB2361 .R476 2006
ISBN: 1579221432
Publication Date: Sterling, Va. : Stylus Pub., 2006.

Cover Art
The Art and Craft of College Teaching - Rotenberg, Robert
ISBN: 9781598745337
Publication Date: 2010-05-15
This book provides a hands-on, quick-start guide to the complexities of the college classroom for instructors in their first five years of teaching. Practical and prescriptive, it provides guidance on course design, syllabi, teaching strategies and assessment, among other topics. The second edition of Rotenberg's popular guide includes additional material on teaching in a digital environment, universal design and teaching diverse students

Cover Art
Active Learning: : 101 strategies to teach any subject - Silberman, Melvin L.
Call Number: McK Folio LB1027.23 .S556 1996; SG Stacks (2 copies) LB1027.23 .S556 1996
ISBN: 0205178669
Publication Date: Boston : Allyn and Bacon, ©1996.
The only book to cover active learning in the middle or secondary classroom, this is a sourcebook of hundreds of instructional strategies to engage students in learning for any subject. KEY TOPICS: Specific, practical strategies include ways to get students active from the start through activities that build teamwork and immediately get them thinking about the subject matter. 101 activities include ice-breakers for the beginning of class, strategies for the middle of a lesson, and concluding exercises to foster student reflection and future application. In addition, these activities are designed to enliven learning, deepen understanding, and promote retention.

Cover Art
Teaching Actively: eight steps and 32 strategies to spark learning in any - Silberman, Melvin L.
Call Number: SG Lib Stacks LB1027.23 .S56 2006
ISBN: 9780205455379
Publication Date: Boston : Pearson/A&B, ©2006.

Cover Art
Training the Active Training Way: 8 strategies to spark learning and change - Silberman, Melvin L.
Call Number: UMCP Mck Stacks HF5549.5.T7 S5554 2006
ISBN: 9780787976132
Publication Date: Pfeiffer essential resources for training and HR professionals.San Francisco : Pfeiffer, ©2006.
Training expert Mel Silberman is the father of the popular and effective active training method. In his landmark textbook, Active Training, he identified the specific characteristics of the active training method that results in deeper learning and improved retention

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Assessing Student Learning - Suskie, Linda ; Trudy W. Banta (Foreword by); Banta (Foreword by)
Call Number: LB2336 .S87 2009
ISBN: 9780470289648
Publication Date: 2009-03-23
The first edition of Assessing Student Learning has become the standard reference for college faculty and administrators who are charged with the task of assessing student learning within their institutions. The second edition of this landmark book offers the same practical guidance and is designed to meet ever-increasing demands for improvement and accountability. This edition includes expanded coverage of vital assessment topics such as promoting an assessment culture, characteristics of good assessment, audiences for assessment, organizing and coordinating assessment, assessing attitudes and values, setting benchmarks and standards, and using results to inform and improve teaching, learning, planning, and decision making.

Cover Art
Using Active Learning in College Classes - Sutherland, Tracey E. ; Charles C. Bonwell; TL Staff
Call Number: McK Stacks LB1027.23 .U85 1996
ISBN: 0787999334
Publication Date: New directions for teaching and learning, no. 67. San Francisco, Calif. : Jossey-Bass, ©1996.
The Active Learning Continuum introduced in this volume is important given our concern that some faculty believe only complicated, group-oriented activities constitute genuine active learning. The continuum's framework underlines the importance of context in making decisions about teaching methods. Strong lecturers who make use of short, uncomplicated strategies to enhance students' understanding and interest are practicing active learning just as legitimately as strong facilitators who organize entire classes with students in formal cooperative learning groups. This volume does not advocate active learning for its own sake, but rather the engagement of students in learning experiences that meet course goals and fit instructors' classroom styles. Whether strategies fall toward the simple or the complex end of the continuum, if students are effectively engaged, active learning is a success.

Cover Art
Assessment Clear and Simple: a practical guide for institutions, departments, and general education - Walvoord, Barbara E.
Call Number: LB2822.75 .W35 2004
ISBN: 0787973114
Publication Date: Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, ©2004.
Assessment Clear and Simple is "Assessment 101" in a book - a concise, step-by-step guide written for everyone who participates in the assessment process. This practical book helps to make assessment simple, cost-efficient, and useful to the institution, while at the same time meeting the requirements of accreditation agencies, legislatures, review boards, and others

Cover Art
Bringing Problem-Based Learning to Higher Education: Theory and Practice - Wilkerson, LuAnn (Editor); Wim H. Gijselaers; TL Staff
Call Number: UMCP McK Stacks LB1027.42 .B74 1996
ISBN: 0787999342
Publication Date: New directions for teaching and learning, no. 68.; Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series.San

Cover Art
The Art of Changing the Brain - Zull, James
Call Number: UMCP McK Stacks LB1057 .Z85 2002
ISBN: 1579220541
Publication Date: Sterling, Va. : Stylus Pub., 2002.
Examines how current knowledge about the human brain and its interactions with the senses and the physical world can influence the practice of teaching.


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