There is a growing emphasis on generic working life competences acquired through higher education. The reasons for that are found for example in the transition into information era, increasing internationalization and the new organization of work. (Kember, 2009; Tynjälä, 1999.) As enabling graduates’ employability is an important task of higher education institutions (Feldmann, 2016), the growing focus on generic competences has challenged them to adopt new approaches to learning (Kember, 2009; Tynjälä, 1999).
This review study provides a current overview of the empirical research concerning active learning in the context of higher education in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Active learning is a constructivist learning approach in which, instead of only absorbing knowledge from their teacher the students construct it themselves (Michael, 2006; Prince & Felder, 2006; Tynjälä, 1999). Thus, the applications of constructive learning have been seen appropriate in producing professionalism for the ill-defined and complex tasks of today’s working life (Tynjälä, 1999).
The research questions are:
RQ1) What active learning methods are being used in higher education of science, technology, engineering and mathematics?
RQ2) What kind of effect do the active learning methods have on the development of students’ disciplinary content knowledge and generic competences?
Generic competences have been described flexibly and have also been referred to with other terms such as lifelong learning skills, transferable skills and graduate attributes (Kember, 2009). Broadly, they can be defined as skills, knowledge and abilities beyond disciplinary content knowledge. More specifically, they can be understood as basic precursory abilities to which discipline knowledge can be added, as complementing the discipline specific outcomes, as enabling the translation of university learning to unfamiliar settings or as enabling abilities in the heart of scholarly learning and knowledge which can support the creation of new knowledge and transform the individual. (Barrie, 2006.) Among the generic competences are for example higher order thinking skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and metacognitive skills, as well as communication skills (Billing, 2007).
Active learning methods
Active learning can be seen more as an approach to learning than a method itself, and therefore each method or activity can be studied separately (Prince, 2004). They can be seen as inductive and learner-centered as they impose more responsibility on students for their learning than the deductive lecture-based teaching (Prince & Felder, 2006). In this research review we adopt the definition by Bonwell and Eison (1991, p. 5) who describe active learning as “instructional activities that involve students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing”. In this definition, the active role of students is an important one but it also emphasizes active learning as instructional activities chosen and applied by teachers. These teacher chosen activities are often placed inside of a classroom (Freeman et al, 2014; Prince, 2004).
Former research reviews in higher education STEM have often focused on specific active learning activities or methods such as problem-based learning, small group learning, cooperative learning, use of games and pair programming (Borrego, Foster, & Froyd, 2015). When learning outcomes are of interest, active learning methods have usually been found to be at least equal to, and in general more effective than passive learning methods (e.g. Freeman et al, 2014; Michael, 2006; Prince & Felder, 2006). This review seeks to get a broader understanding of implementation and effects related to active learning methods in the context of STEM. These methods are examined in the ICAP framework (formerly known as DOLA for Differentiated Overt Learning Activities) that divides active learning methods in being interactive, constructive, active or passive (Chi & Wylie, 2014; Chi, 2009).
Barrie, S. (2006). Understanding what we mean by the generic attributes of graduates. Higher Education, 51(2), 215–241. Billing, D. (2007). Teaching for transfer of core/key skills in higher education: Cognitive skills. Higher Education, 53(4), 483–516. Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1. Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development. Borrego, M., Foster, M., & Froyd, J. (2015). What is the state of the art of systematic review in engineering education? Journal of Engineering Education, 104(2), 212-242. Chi, M. (2009). Active-Constructive-Interactive: A conceptual framework for differentiating learning activities. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1(1), 73-105. Chi, M., & Wylie, R. (2014). The ICAP Framework: Linking cognitive engagement to active learning outcomes. Educational Psychologist, 49(4), 219-243. Feldmann, L. (2016). Considerations in the design of WBL settings to enhance students’ employability: A synthesis of individual and contextual perspectives. Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 6(2), 131-145. Freeman, S., Eddy, S. L., McDonough, M., Smith, M. K., Okoroafor, N., Jordt, H., & Wenderoth, M. P. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(23), 8410–8415. Grant, M., & Booth, A. (2009). A typology of reviews: an analysis of 14 review types and associated methodologies. Health Information and Libraries Journal, 26(2), 91–108. Hart, C. (1998). Doing a Literature Review. Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination. London: SAGE Publications. Hsieh, H-F., & Shannon, S. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277-1288. Kember, D. (2009). Nurturing generic capabilities through a teaching and learning environment which provides practise in their use. Higher Education, 57(1), 37–55. Michael, J. (2006). Where's the evidence that active learning works? American Journal of Physiology - Advances in Physiology Education, 30(4), 159–167. Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal Of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223–231. Prince, M. J., & Felder, R. M. (2006). Inductive teaching and learning methods: Definitions, comparisons, and research bases. Journal Of Engineering Education, 95(2), 123–138. Tynjälä, P. (1999). Towards expert knowledge? A comparison between a constructivist and a traditional learning environment in the university. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(5), 357–442.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.