Particularly in the first year of their programmes, students may tend to read through the course material and – once they think they understand it – leave it at that. They therefore draw few connections and do not organise the course material in their own way. In the following section, we provide a few simple ways of encouraging students to be more actively engaged with the material.

  • Make examples available
    Test questions that you have used before or sample questions prepared specifically to this end provide students with information on the desired product and process. For open-ended questions, it is very important to provide both sample questions and the answers associated with them (or examples thereof). This will make it quite clear what will be expected of students on the test.
  • Provide additional information during the lecture
    The lecture is not intended only to provide explanations or additional details on the course material. It is also an opportunity to provide information on what is and is not important in the course material. You could also note the manner in which the material should be studied.
  • Include study questions throughout the course material
    The inclusion of study questions throughout the course material can encourage students to be more actively engaged with the material. Take care to ensure that the answers cannot simply be looked up in the text. The questions should thus require higher cognitive activity. The correct answers to the questions should be available for consultation (e.g. in a separate attachment or in the electronic learning environment), so that students can check themselves.
  • Organise a trial test
    Before the actual test, you could administer a test that does not count towards the final assessment. The intention would be to provide students with insight into their level of competence at that time. Sample tests can provide students with a concrete idea of what will ultimately be expected of them, thus steering them in the right direction as they continue to study.
  • Organise a discussion of the test (or trial test)
    After every test (or practice test), organise a brief session in which the test questions are explained. Although the session might be too late for the test (or trial test) in question, it could be useful for students with regard to a resit, and possibly subsequent tests in other modules.

Want to know more?

Idea paper 53: Active learning strategies in face-to-face courses.

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching. San Francisco, ca: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

European University Association (2019). Promoting active learning in universities Thematic Peer Group Report (Learning & Teaching Paper #5). Retrieved from EUA website:

For staff members of the University of Antwerp         

On the infocenter education you can find some good practices of activating educational practices at the University of Antwerp.

On the infocenter education you can also find some tips and tricks concerning activating students.

The (dutch) book 50 onderwijstips is fully available online (after logging in to Pintra). Tips 1 till  1O deal with activating education.