2.6 Evidence that active learning works
Does active learning increase student performance in mathematics and computer science? This is a question often posed by faculty who teach STEM courses at the undergraduate level. Are we going to continue to teach based on evidence or tradition?
According to a meta-analysis of 225 studies conducted by Freeman et al. (2014), there is strong evidence that active learning does lead to an increase in examination performance among students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses (Brame, 2016). In fact, on average, examination performance was increased by one half of a letter grade in active learning courses versus traditional lecture courses. Furthermore, on average, students taking traditional lecture courses are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students taking active learning courses i.e. the average failure rates were 21.8% in active learning courses compared with 33.8% in traditional lecture courses (Freeman et al., 2014).
In a more recent article published in The Harvard Gazette on September 4, 2019 (Reuell, 2019), there is additional evidence that the active learning approach leads to improved student performance. The results of this Harvard study demonstrate that although students believed that they learned more when taught in the traditional lecture-based teaching style, they retained and learned more when active learning activities were incorporated into the classroom.
As evidenced in both of the above studies, there is a significant improvement in student performance when active learning strategies were employed. Therefore, active learning is a must in our classrooms today and should be welcomed with open arms.
Research on the effectiveness of active learning is listed in this bibliography.
By Ilene Ahamad