Teaching Tips

Active Learning

Active learning engages students in the learning process rather than passively receiving information. Instructional methods are learner-centered rather than teacher-centered. Active learning incorporates many of the same activities as cooperative and collaborative learning. 

Research on active learning

Additional web resources and activities 

Techniques For Active Learning

Classroom Activities

What is Active Learning?

Professors Who Use Active Learning 

Cooperative and Collaborative Learning

Cooperative and collaborative learning are similar concepts. Both cooperative and collaborative learning involve students working together in groups. Cooperative learning tends to be more structured than collaborative learning. This document gives a description of common collaborative learning techniques


Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2005). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Millis, B. J. (Ed.). (2010). Cooperative learning in higher education: Across the disciplines, across the academy. Sterling, VA: Stylus. 

Additional web resources:

The Best Sites For Cooperative Learning Ideas

Cooperative Learning

First-Day Questions

Every professor has experienced the frustrations of low student engagement or student resistance. Smith (2008) developed an innovated activity to elicited student buy-in to his approach to the class. On the first day of class he his students to think of what they want to get out of their college education and course. He then as student which of the following is most important to them.

  1. Acquiring information (facts, principles, concepts)
  2. Learning how to use information and knowledge in new situations
  3. Developing lifelong learning skills 

Number 2 had the most responses followed by number 3. Very few students felt number 1 was the most important aspect of college. This lead to a discussion on how all three were important followed by a discussion on what students can do outside of class on their own. Most students agreed that number 1, acquiring information, could be done outside of class on their own. The would allow class-time to be spent on other activities that fostered development of skills and critical thinking 


Smith G. A. (2008, September). First-day questions for the learner-centered classroom. National Teaching & Learning Forum, 17, (5). 1-4. 

Managing Technology In Class

Managing techonlogy in the classroom can be daunting task. Students have laptops, phones, tablets, and music devices. This can increase potential for distractions. A good strategy is to discuss with students the befenits and draw back of technology in the classroom. Below are some tips from the University of Denver.

  • Think through your stance on laptops/phones. Discuss your stance with your students.
  • Create policy and list the policy in your syllabus. Student can help create the policy. 
  • Meet individually with students who violate the policy.
  • Have "screen up" and "screen down" times. 
  • Walk around the classroom. Look at what your students are doing on their laptops. 

Additional Web Resources 

Video on Managing Laptops and Mobile Devices 

Wireless in the classroom

Mini-Lectures & PowerPoint/Keynote Presentations

Mini-lectures are an excellent technique to use for topics students are struggling with in your course. Mini-lectures can be used to augment student learning, help students acquire information, and present up-to-date information. Below are some tips and resources on effective lectures. Below are some tips for delivering effective lectures:

  • Watch yourself on film. This will help you focus on behaviors that will keep student attention. The SCOT program offers in-class filming for professors to see themselves while they lecture.  
  • Keep students' attention. Professors can vary pitch, tone, or volume. Professors can ask for questions or comments during the lecture.
  • Break it up. Professors can pause during the lecture. 
  • Be enthusiastic and conversational. 
  • Maintain eye contact and don't talk into your lecture notes. 
  • Move about the room.
  • Pause and give a students a problem to solve. 
  • Have students exchange their notes from the lecture. This allows students to see what other students thought were important or what concepts the students might have missed. If you do this, warn the students at the beginning. 
  • Incorporate formative assessment into the lectures using clickers. 


Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.  

Lang, J. M. (2008). On course: A week-by-week guide to your first semester of college teaching. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

For more in-depth reading, view these articles:

Top 10 Evidence-Based, Best Practices for PowerPoint® in the Classroom

How to Create "Thriller" PowerPoints® in the Classroom!

"PowerPoint® Engagement" Techniques to Foster Deep Learning

Research on PowerPoint: From Basic Features to Multimedia

Additional web resources:



Active Lecturing: The Potential of PowerPoint

Effective Lecture Preparation and Delivery

PowerPoint Doctor

Top Ten Slide Tips