Interactive Learning Strategies*


Interactive. Provide students with a general outline to give them a framework for thinking about a subject and to structure their notetaking. This type of lecture involves students by focusing their attention on key words and phrases that they fill in on a handout. It emphasizes information transfer at the knowledge, recall, and comprehension levels of learning.

Lecturette. Give a short (10- to 20-minute) presentation, or a number of 3-5 minute presentations followed by a variety of other learning activities. Like the interactive lecture, the lecturette can use a general outline, word pictures, or other graphics in a handout.

Lecturette with Listening Team. Give a lecturette or invite a guest to speak for 10-20-minutes. Assign students to small groups of 3-5. Give each group a listening assignment to generate questions about one aspect of the presentation. After the lecturette, give the groups 5 minutes to organize and prioritize and then ask their questions.

Lecture Delay and Summary. Ask students to listen to a 10-15 minute lecture, but not to take any notes. Give the students 5-10 minutes to summarize key points, draw diagrams, and write down as much detail as appropriate. Then ask students then swap notes and check for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Adversarial Lecture. Invite two speakers to discuss their different points of view on a "hot" topic in front of the class. Give a lecturette with comments about each side. Ask students to question both speakers (and you) about why he/she made certain comments.

Student Interviews

Ask students to form pairs and interview each other on a pre-selected topic. This is a good technique for exploring values and attitudes. Provide students with questions for the interview or let them generate their own questions. Report results as a percentage of the group response, i.e. 60% of the group agrees.

Ice Breakers

Techniques used at the beginning of a class to reduce stress, introduce people, focus attention on the learning objectives, or to make an important point. They can be in the form of a joke, story, an artifact, demonstration, newspaper headline, or video-clip.


The instructor asks students to tell the class, in their own words, what the instructor or another student just said. Give students two to three minutes to write a response. Give students time to respond verbally, to question each other, and to clarify their own responses. This technique can be used several times throughout the class.


Use special documents, reports, pictures, etc. as a catalyst for discussion. Each item i preceded by key questions to direct the students' attention. The questions are answered by students before class and then discussed during class.

Reinforcing Fill-Ins

Students fill in a word or phrase in a statement or question. The instructor provides the correct answer and students modify their responses if necessary.

Student-generated Questions

Explain the intellectual levels of questioning (recall, understanding, application, analysis and evaluation) and ask students to write a series of questions about the topic under discussion. Then ask students to answer the questions in pairs, groups, or the whole class.

Question Challenge

Give the class a reading assignment and ask each student to write two questions that require responses of factual information, or concise answers. Ask students to share their questions with the class and ask the class to answer the question. Ask the class if they are satisfied with the answer.


After a presentation, students working in pairs ask questions of each other that focus on the presentations. These questions are based on the learning performance objectives provided to the students at the beginning of the presentation.

Incomplete Statements

The instructor provides incomplete statements such as "My perspective on abortion is..." The student is asked to complete this statement on a handout and then share their thoughts with their small group or the whole class.

Active Review

The instructor summarizes the lecture, then asks students to review the structure within the total framework of the class. Students read through their notes for 2-3 minutes to identify areas of confusion. They then ask questions of each other in pairs or small groups.

Individual Exercises

These provide an opportunity for the students to practice skills such as labeling, rank-ordering, multiple choice, true/false, and completion. Ask students to complete the exercise within a defined time period. After giving students the correct answers, ask students to discuss them while you moderate and ask questions.

Progress Quizzes

Short, ungraded self-tests for which answers serve as a feedback mechanism for you and your students. Students receive quick feedback so that he/she can check progress toward mastering content or skills. You obtain feedback on student comprehension and development.


Given a problem, students first work alone, then in pairs and finally in quads (maximum). In the latter stages, they compare, refine, and revise their conclusions and recommendations.

Group Work Exercise

A whole class of students is given a problem or situation to solve in a 10- to 20- minute period of time. All directions and rules are printed in a handout, on an overhead transparency, or written on the board, and explained by the instructor.

Buzz Sessions

Divide students into small groups (3-5 students) to work, within a determined time limit and without a leader, to answer a question or solve a problem and come to some kind of conclusion. Ask each group to report their results/conclusions of the short discussion the class. You may also choose to ask all students to write a short paper about their discussion.

Written Scenario

Provide students with a brief (1-2 paragraph) description of a real or fabricated situation. Divide students into small groups to analyze the topic in stages. Ask students to select a recorder to present their group's analysis after a set amount of time. You may choose to provide all data or only part of the data. If the latter, you will be asking students to make assumptions that will affect the final outcome or recommendations. The same technique could be used with a visual scenario (still or motion).

Role Play

This is an excellent technique for developing communication skills and provides feedback to students about their own behavior. Provide students with a broad outline or a detailed description of a confrontational event. Assign roles to students for the characters in the scenario. Explain that they are to act out the events of the situation as they think the character they are portraying would act. This activity is improvisational-done without practice.


Present cases, problems, or scenarios in which the members of the class must role-play. The group discusses and analyzes a critical situation and then makes decisions about how to resolve the situation. This technique helps students to develop team-building skills. The "in-basket" strategy is a one-person simulation where a student responds to letters, memos, or telephone calls taken from real-life situations.


An organized and civil argument that requires a good moderator and a set of ground rules. After the debate, students ask questions. The debate can be conducted by a combination of two of the follwing: the instructor, an invited guest, student(s).


Two or more five-to 10-minute presentations on different aspects of the same subject. These are then discussed briefly and followed by a question and answer session. Each student writes a short report on his/her part of the topic. A copy of each paper is provided to each student.

Panel Discussion

One group of 4-6 students sits at a table in front of the class. Assign, or have students select a topic for a time-limited discussion. Each panelist chooses to represent a different viewpoint and participates in a discussion, the remainder of the class listens. The class then asks questions of the panel with the instructor acting as moderator.

Structured Discussion

Class discussion focused on specific learning objectives that are either posted or handed out to students. Different groups may address different objectives, or the whole class may focus on a single objective.

Crossfire Panel

A closely moderated, heated, and argumentative discussion on a predetermined controversial issue. The topic is given to four or five student panelists prior to the class so that they can prepare background material. Students ask questions. At the end of the exercise, students are polled and the results are given to the panel for their summary comments.

Learning Cells

Divide students into pairs to work on a specific in-class reading assignment, or their choice of a variety of assignments. Each student prepares a series of questions derived from the reading and take turns asking and answering the questions. The instructor collects and reviews the questions after class.

Quiet Question

During the last 5 minutes of class, the instructor asks students to complete the sentence: "A question I still have about [topic of lecture], but have hesitated to ask is..." The instructor responds to the questions (or the most common questions) at the beginning of the next class.

Question Box

Encourage students to write their questions about any topic of class and deposit them in a central location. Devote one class or portion of a session to answering their questions. If you choose to respond individually to student's questions, let them know that you will answer within 24 hours. Retain copies of written questions for future reference when revising/reviewing your course.

One-Minute Feedback

During the last few minutes of class, ask students to respond to one of the following types of questions. Review student feedback after class and respond to it in the next class session.

- What was the "muddiest" point of today's class?

- What were the two most important points you learned today?

- What did you like best about today's class?

*adapted from Cyrs, Thomas E., 1994, Essential Skills for College Teaching : An Instructional Systems Approach, 3rd ed. Center for Educational Development, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.

Angela R. Linse, Ph.D.
Instructional Consultant
Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching
Engineering Annex 221, Box 352180, Seattle, WA 98195