Using Active Learning Techniques in Small Groups

In this module, faculty learn to implement the essential components of effective active learning, including providing a rationale for the activity, promoting group interdependence, holding group members accountable, and collecting student feedback to identify strengths and areas for improving the activity. The module helps instructors implement three active learning techniques—Think-Pair-Share, Jigsaw, and Analytic Teams—depending on the learning objectives they have set for their class session.

To satisfy the module requirements, practicing faculty must apply at least one technique, such as holding students accountable for their participation in group activities or implementing an appropriate active learning activity.

This module is one of six modules under ACUE’s unit on Using Active Learning Techniques.

Advising Subject Matter Expert

Elizabeth Barkley
Professor, Music History
Foothill College

Module References

Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Davidson, N., & Major, C. H. (2014). Boundary crossings: Cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and problem-based learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(3/4), 7–55.

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

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2005). New developments in social interdependence theory. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 131, 285–358.

Lambert, C. (2012, March–April). Twilight of the lecture: The trend toward “active learning” may overthrow the style of teaching that has ruled universities for 600 years. Harvard Magazine. Retrieved from

McWilliam, E. L. (2009). Teaching for creativity: From sage to guide to meddler. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 29, 281–293.

Twigg, C. A. (2015, November–December). Improving learning and reducing costs: Fifteen years of course description. Change. Retrieved from

Wieman, C. (2010). Basic instructor habits to keep students engaged. Retrieved from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia website: