The Experience of Teaching an Active Learning Recitation

In this section, Prof. Steven Hall discusses his strategies for teaching an active learning class including the small changes instructors can make. He also describes some of the rewards of coaching students during active learning recitations.

Start Small Before Wading In

When I first started using active learning techniques in my course, I was initially uncomfortable with the active techniques. I found it helpful to start off small get a little confidence and wade in. You might start with muddy cards or a few concept questions. But my experience usually is the more active a class is, the better. It is very seldom that there is too much active learning in a classroom.

Courses Best Suited for Stand-up Recitations

When thinking about incorporating active learning into a lecture or recitation, an important issue to think about is what active learning technique is appropriate for that class. The problems that students do tend to be 15 to 20 minutes long, which gives us a chance to do 2 or 3 questions in a recitation. I've also used this technique at the sophomore level and it works very well there. I would expect it would also work very well for freshmen-level classes.

I do think for more advanced classes like senior-level subjects and graduate subjects, you might find that as the materials get more involved and more integrative, there's just not enough time to do multiple problems in a recitation like structure and therefore some other approach might make sense. It's always important to think: is this the right approach in the context that I'm in? If it's not there's probably another active approach that would be suitable.

Transitioning From a Lecturer to a Coach

…you're coaching them. You're helping shape the students' understanding so that they can become hopefully as expert as you are in the material.

— Prof. Steven Hall


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In this video, Prof. Steven Hall offers suggestions on how to prepare for active learning
recitations and when to intervene during problem solving sessions. He explains the joys
and surprises of coaching students rather than lecturing to them.