Recently I attended a 2 day workshop from Cambridge International Education on Active Learning and Assessment for Learning. It was eye opening. Before the workshop, I really thought active learning was when students are up and moving and active. It is not. I learned that in the first 10 minutes of the workshop.

We were given some information, and then asked to work with our group to write a definition of Active learning using 2 sentences or less. This is what we came up with:

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If you can’t read it well, it says

“Students taking ownership of the learning process, accomplishing something meaningful, interesting, and exciting in order to learn.”




After more discussion we revised it to the statement below:

“A process whereby students take ownership of the learning process by communicating, collaborating, and thinking critically in order to accomplish meaningful, interesting, and exciting learning.”

The big takeaway of the morning session was that active learning isn’t synonymous with “fun.” It has more to do with critical thinking and encouraging dialogue. We then got to break off into subject specific groupings where we learned about a lot more resources to encourage active learning.

The math session focused on the areas of active learners being curious, thoughtful, collaborative, and determined. Most of the resources were from, and I think many were from the page about developing Mathematical Habits of Mind. Working through these tasks with other math teachers was interesting, and I enjoyed being able to process and think of ideas of how to use these activities in my classroom.

In our workshop we started sharing resources on a whiteboard, and I started a Padlet for us to share resources digitally.

In the afternoon, we got back into our original groups from the morning, and based on our day, we were asked to edit our original statement. We made minor changes:


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“Active Learning is:

A process whereby students take ownership of the learning process by communicating, collaborating, and thinking critically in order to accomplish meaningful, interesting, and engaging learning. The teacher is a facilitator in this process.”

You can see we changed “exciting” to “engaging”, and we added a statement about the teacher’s role. This reflected what we felt about the day and what we had learned.



If I were  to summarize it into a sound byte, I would say “Active learning does not equal activity. It activates the mind to be more engaged with the content.”

The second day was Assessment for Learning, and I’ll share about that in a separate post.