Instructional Strategies

One consistent finding in educational research is the power of active learning.  Active learning (as opposed to passive learning) requires that students play a central role in constructing the learning experience.  Classroom discussion, cooperative learning, inquiry-based learning, and role play and simulations are all strategies grounded in active learning.

What is Active Learning? (University of Minnesota CETL, n.d.)
Take a deeper look at active learning, including keys for success and links to active learning strategies.

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (UNC-Charolotte CETL, 1987)
Though dated, this article explores principles that enrich undergraduate education no matter what the area of study, whether liberal arts or an applied program.

Classroom Discussion

High quality classroom discussions don’t just happen: they are the product of thoughtful planning and preparation. The best classroom discussions involve all students working cooperatively to compare, present, and examine diverse perspectives with each other.


Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning strategies involve learners working in groups of (typically) 3-7 to accomplish a shared goal.  In cooperative learning, learners teach each other content and skills and also refine critical social skills.

Cooperative and Collaborative Learning (EBC, 2004)
This resource explains how cooperative learning strategies can help improve student learning and offers both theory and practical advice for implementation.

Learning Jigsaw (Durham College, 2010)
A jigsaw is a simple cooperative learning method whereby students work in groups to help teach each other course content.  This four-minute YouTube video offers a basic introduction to what the jigsaw method is and how to use it in your classroom.

Successful Strategies for Teams (Kennedy and Nilson, 2008)
A handbook for students that equips them with skills to successfully work as a member of a team.

Faculty Focus articles on Cooperative Learning:

Inquiry-based Learning

Inquiry-based learning involves an iterative process of gathering data and generating hypotheses regarding important—and often debatable—questions, much like experts in any number of technical and professional fields do every day.

Inquiry Based Learning (EBC, 2004)
Here is a comprehensive site that offers both theoretical underpinnings of inquiry-based learning and practical steps for implementing this type of lesson.

Role-plays and Simulations

Using role-plays and simulations give students an opportunity to practice skills and apply knowledge in situations that approximate what they might face while on the job.

Role Plays and Simulations  (University of Saskatchewan, n.d.)
This resource offers an introduction to role plays and simulations in higher education, featuring three brief videos of instructors in nursing and business explaining how they use this technique.  For another example from the same institution, click here.

Role-Playing Exercises (Teed, 2012)
Developed by the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, this site offers summaries and examples of different types of role-plays and detailed instructions on how to implement role-playing activities in your classroom.


Lectures are considered to be teacher-centered learning.  Teacher-centered learning subscribes to a different educational paradigm than that of active learning.  In teacher-centered learning, the teacher takes center-stage in disseminating content to students.

How To Create Memorable Lectures (Stanford University, 2005)
Lectures often contain far more content that students are able to digest at one time.  Help your students remember the main points of your lecture with these techniques.

Interactive lectures

One critique of teacher-centered instructional methods is that students are viewed as passive participants.  Interactive lectures help engage students by breaking lectures up with small, interactive tasks for students to do alone or in small groups.  More than just busy-work, these tasks can force students to grapple with the content of the lecture in complex ways.

Interactive Lectures (Carleton College, n.d.)
Tutorial on how to create interactive lectures

The “Change-up” in Lectures (Middendorf & Kalish, 1995)
Though over 20 years old, this article offers 20 fantastic ways to make your lectures interactive

Interactive Lectures: Summaries of 36 Formats (Thiagi, Inc., 2003)
As the title implies, 36 different strategies you can use to create interactive lectures