The construct of active learning permeates undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but despite its prevalence, the construct means different things to different people, groups, and STEM domains. To better understand active learning, we constructed this review through an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration involving research teams from psychology and discipline-based education research (DBER). Our collaboration examined active learning from two different perspectives (i.e., psychology and DBER) and surveyed the current landscape of undergraduate STEM instructional practices related to the modes of active learning and traditional lecture. On that basis, we concluded that active learning—which is commonly used to communicate an alternative to lecture and does serve a purpose in higher education classroom practice—is an umbrella term that is not particularly useful in advancing research on learning. To clarify, we synthesized a working definition of active learning that operates within an elaborative framework, which we call the construction-of-understanding ecosystem. A cornerstone of this framework is that undergraduate learners should be active agents during instruction and that the social construction of meaning plays an important role for many learners, above and beyond their individual cognitive construction of knowledge. Our proposed framework offers a coherent and actionable concept of active learning with the aim of advancing future research and practice in undergraduate STEM education.
Lombardi, D., Shipley, T. F., Astronomy Team, Biology Team, Chemistry Team, Engineering Team, Geography Team, Geoscience Team, & Physics Team (2021). The curious construct of active learning. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 22(1), 8-43. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100620973974