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Active Learning Conference 2017

Our Active Learning Conference 2017 was an opportunity for delegates to share their successful active learning practices as well as research into active learning

Active learning focuses on students actively engaging in their learning through active problem-based learning, inverted or flipped classroom approaches, Team-Based Learning (TBL), SCALE-UP, and technology-enhanced active learning (TEAL).

The conference linked Team-Based Learning at University of Bradford, SCALE-UP at Nottingham Trent University and our own active learning practices. It was one of the seventeen projects funded by HEFCE's Catalyst Fund. Read more about the project on the Vice Chancellor's blog.

The Active Learning Conference aimed to:

  • introduce active learning approaches through masterclasses
  • share good practice in using and embedding active learning approaches in the curriculum
  • provide opportunities to learn new skills and techniques.

The hashtag for the conference was #altalc


View illustrations by Dr Michelle Fava and Natalie Eldred.


Designs for Active Learning

Professor Mike Sharples, The Open University
View the slides


Effective task design for active learning (TBL)

with Simon Tweddell and Beck McCarter, University of Bradford

View the slides for 'Effective task design for active learning (TBL)'

View the Student Study Guide – Introduction to Team-Based Learning

View the Student Study Guide – Top Ten Tips for Constructing TBL Units

We should adopt active learning strategies to make best use of our time with our students so it is crucial that the tasks we set effectively deliver high levels of student engagement and challenge students to apply their learning.

In Team-Based Learning (TBL) we use the simple but effective 4S model to structure our tasks. This workshop will be delivered in a TBL format so that participants can explore the anatomy of 4S task design, experience at least two types of active learning tasks, and develop and use criteria to review tasks.  Finally, we will share a peer review tool to aid future task development and signpost further resources.

The Goldilocks Zone – Asking the right questions for active learning (TEAL)

with Professor Simon Lancaster, University of East Anglia

Prof Lancaster believes that the success of all active learning pedagogies depends on the nature of the questions we ask. Active learning is not about finding out what our students know but about providing opportunities for them to learn something new. To achieve this, a question needs to be conceptual in nature, requiring not recall but understanding and application. It also needs to be pitched at the right level. Too easy and everybody can answer. Too hard and nobody can answer. By employing questions in “The Goldilocks Zone”, we can lever the social dimension of the lecture theatre experience to collectively construct understanding. In this masterclass, we will discuss how to ensure the answers we select surface all the misconceptions. We’ll explore approaches to question co-creation with students and the forging of learning partnerships. Above all, Prof Lancaster practises what he preaches and the masterclass will be highly interactive.

Up and running with SCALE-UP

with Jane McNeil, Michaela Borg, Ellie Kennedy and Zena Rashid, Nottingham Trent University

SCALE-UP is an active learning approach where students learn concepts using online materials before they come to class, and then apply them in a series of enquiry-based, problem-solving activities in the sessions.

In 2013, Nottingham Trent University (NTU) became the first UK University to pilot SCALE-UP in an institutional, multi-disciplinary project. Today, we’re also interested in the possibilities of using SCALE-UP alongside other active learning pedagogies to address unexplained disparities in progression and attainment.

In this masterclass, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Explore the findings of the NTU evaluation and our experience of using SCALE-UP.
  • Learn about the features of the approach and how to use them.
  • Consider practicalities for introducing SCALE-UP into a course.
  • Take part in a SCALE-UP session.

Parallel session 1 – 11.10–12.10

1a Using Team-Based Learning to Deliver a Consultation Skills Module – Simon Tweddell, University of Bradford

1b The 1-2-3 Peer Feedback Cycle – Dr Mike Hobbs and Elaine Brown, Anglia Ruskin University

1c Active Learning through a Collaboratie Digital Learning Project – Dr Wendy Garnham and Tab Betts, University of Sussex

2a 'So many ideas on how to use the space!': Creating spaces for active learning – Kristian Rogers, Sarah Ney and Peter Bryant, London School of Economics and Political Science

2b Mission Impossible: Engaging 1,500 students in project weeks to develop 'global skills', and they get no credit – Dr Trish Murray and Professor Rachel Horn, University of Sheffield

2c Flipped, Authentic and Problem-Based Labs – Dr Paul Holland and Rhian Kerton, Swansea University

3 Public Thinking Spaces – Dr Ellie Kennedy, Nottingham Trent University

4 Promoting Active Learning through Self-Assessment and Peer-Instruction: Design, evidence and evaluation – Dr Fabio R Aricò, University of East Anglia

5 Team-Based Learning: Educational benefits of an in-class mobile-friendly online assessment platform – Dr Shihab Khogali and Alison Gray, University of Dundee

Parallel session 2 – 13.40–14.40

6a Active Learning: Keeping it simple – Steve McDonald, Anglia Ruskin University

6b Students as Professionals – Susan Smith and Mark Fisher, University of Sussex

6c What happened to Ashley Tailor? An interactive, problem-based capstone assessment based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) – Dr Jo Rushworth and Dr Graham Lawson, De Montfort University

7a Tale from the North: Moving away from formal learning spaces to active learning spaces – Dr Auðbjörg Björnsdóttir and Ásta Ásmundsdóttir, University of Akureyri, Iceland

7b Embracing the University: Experiential solutions for effective transitions – Dr Andy Pitchford, University of Bath and Dr Joanna Hendy, Cardiff Metropolitan University

7c Evaluating Students' Perceptions of Active Learning Pedagogies – Dr Helen Kay, Tim Parker, Dr Anne Nortcliffe, Dr Oliver Lewis and Dr Dave Greenfield, Sheffield Hallam University

8 Recipes for Active Blended Learning – Elizabeth Palmer and Julie Usher, University of Northampton

9 Virtual Participation to Solve Real World Problems – Paul Driver, Anglia Ruskin University

Parallel session 3 – 15.00–16.00

10a Team-Based Learning in Chemistry: Inspiration, adaptation and integration – Dr Graeme Jones, Dr Laura Hancock, Dr Tess Phillips, Chloe Howe, Dr Natalie Brown and Dr Daniela Plana, Keele University

10b Transforming in Class and out of Class Student Engagement Through Active Learning – Dr John Couperthwaite, Echo360

10c What happened to Ashley Tailor? An interactive, problem-based capstone assessment based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) – Dr Jo Rushworth and Dr Graham Lawson, De Montfort University

11 Developing an Active Learning Curriculum aimed at Improving Engagement and retention in Foundation Year Students on an Extended Degree – Nicky Milner, Anglia Ruskin University

12 Creative Pedagogies: Using objects and images to promote active learning – Dr Maria Kukhareva and Anne Lawrence, University of Bedfordshire and Katherine Koulle, University College London

13 The Pedagogy of Space – James Rutherford and Dom Pates, City, University of London