University of Wisconsin–Madison

Active Learning for SoTL


What we wanted:

The Teaching Academy wanted to engage the campus Teaching & Learning community in active, constructive and interactive learning (Chi, 2009) by creating an environment where they could :

  • reflect on their teaching to come to deeper understanding
  • share their experiences (successes and failure) with fellow scholars of teaching & learning
  • gain ideas, insights, and inspirations  from others’ successes and failures
  • offer constructive feedback and insights to those who share, in the form of comments
  • connect people who are interested in doing similar things, so they can co-construct and iterate on effective teaching & learning practices — great minds learning together can accomplish great things!

What we tried

We created a new WordPress site (fairly easy to use), and created a form within it (even easier to use) that allows campus members to submit and share their teaching & learning stories with their colleagues by answering three simple questions (and uploading an explanatory image).

To get the community started, we also incentivized participation by offering an awesome Teaching Academy mug to all who post three or more of their T&L stories.

Next time we would…

We’ll keep you updated, and try to figure out how to get Babcock ice cream inside those mugs.

1 thought on “Active Learning for SoTL”

  1. I love that Chi article! but gets a bit “Learning Sciencey” — here’s what I think might be the takeaway section:

    “…​ ​overall, active is better than passive, constructive is better than active, and interactive is better than constructive. In all cases, the classification of passive, active, constructive, and interactive​ ​is based on the overt activities undertaken by the participants, and not the underlying cognitive processes which one cannot ascertain accurately unless a study analyzes the content of the outputs, whether they are the underlined sentences, concept maps, self-explanations, dialogues, etc. In other words, the hypothesis here suggests that being active, for example, is better than being passive or not attentive. For example, if a learner is reading a text and underlining, it may be reasonable to assume that the activity of underlining is more likely to engage such a student with the materials than a student who is not underlining therefore and being passive. The assumption is that a student is more likely to “zone-out” when passive (Smallwood, Fishman, & Schooler, 2007).

    Likewise, being constructive is better than being active because being constructive means that a learner is creating new inferences and new connections that go beyond the information that is presented, whereas being active means only that old knowledge is retrieved and activated. Thus, being constructive subsumes being active.

    Finally, being interactive, by and large, is better than being constructive when partners are truly interactive (as opposed to participating in self-construction only), because they can benefit from each other’s contributions. This prediction is consistent with the literature on collaboration, showing that even though a majority of collaborative learning studies find learning advantages compared with individual learning, some studies do not obtain such advantages (Barron, 2003; Yetter et al., 2006). This latter finding might be explained by the fact that some dialogue patterns are in fact not interactive at all. In such cases, participating in dialogues is equivalent to self-construction alone. But on the whole, because dialoguing does result in guided construction and sequential and co-construction types of interactions, being interactive might be better for learning than being constructive alone.”

    Chi, M. T. (2009). Active‐constructive‐interactive: A conceptual framework for differentiating learning activities. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1(1), 73-105.

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