In recent years, activating teaching methods have increasingly been applied during contact moments. The organisation of activating teaching methods at these times allows students to be actively involved in the teaching and learning process. Students who are actively involved are likely to learn more during contact moments than they would by merely listening to a lecturer. The following sections provide a number of general tips to keep in mind when organising activating teaching methods: Ensure congruence. When using activating teaching methods, always ensure that the teaching methods that you wish to use are consistent with the stated objectives for the contact moment. Activating methods should not be an end in themselves, but a means through which to achieve stated objectives. Take the context into account. Pay sufficient attention to the context in which you would like to apply the activating teaching methods. Some teaching methods are more appropriate for small groups of students. Others can easily be applied in an auditorium. Yet other teaching methods call for a space in which the seating can be re-arranged.

  • Start small
    If you have little or no experience with activating teaching methods, it would be advisable to start with small teaching methods that are easy to use during lectures. It is easier to organise a zoom session than it is to organise a complex group assignment. Starting small can also provide you with a systematic way of becoming familiar with this ‘new’ way of setting up assignments, giving instructions, monitoring time and debriefing.
  • Give clear instructions
    When using an activating teaching method, make sure that the instructions are clear, so that students will know exactly what they are expected to do. Clearly state the goal of the assignment, what the teaching method will look like, how much time will be allotted for the assignment and how the debriefing will proceed.
  • Monitor the time
    Monitor the time as the assignment is being completed. Allow the students slightly less time than is needed to complete the assignment. This will ensure that they start working on the assignment immediately. Announce regularly how much time the students have left for the assignment (5 minutes – 1 minute). This is particularly important for longer assignments.
  • Provide supervision during the assignment as well
    Supervise the students during the assignment. Remain in the classroom as the students are working. For long assignments, walk around the classroom and see how the work is proceeding. Try to pick up on a few answers from the student groups, and address them during the debriefing. Prepare the debriefing. Prepare the debriefing carefully, and make sure that it is of good quality. In particular, determine which answers should be drawn from the assignment. In this regard, make sure that a variety of students (and/or groups) have the chance to speak. Based on their answers, try to arrive at a correct and complete answer. Determine in advance how the debriefing will proceed. Will the students designate a reporter? Will they take notes and present them on an overhead slide?
  • Activate everyone
    ​Always try to activate everyone during lectures. To this end, try calling on students at random during the debriefing of an assignment, and try to ensure that it is not always the same students who are talking.


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:  

Fry, H., Ketteridge, S. & Marshall, S. (Eds.). (2007). A handbook for learning and teaching in higher education (2nd ed.). London: Kogan Page.

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.