Revision of Selecting Learning Activities from Tue, 12/18/2007 - 17:25

The Best Choice...according to the experts

Many experts recommend class activities which allow students to engage activly with the content.

Kearsley & Shneiderman, 1999 – "By engaged learning, we mean that all student activities involve active cognitive processes such as creating, problem-solving, reasoning, decision-making, and evaluation. In addition, students are intrinsically motivated to learn due to the meaningful nature of the learning environment and activities."

Dalgarno, 1998 – "Choose activities likely to facilitate the achievement of specific learning outcomes...Learning occurs primarily through the learner's activity, rather than through passively receiving information".


"If you tell me I will forget
If you show me I might remember
But if you involve me, I will learn" —Chinese Proverb

Basic Information

Types of student activities

Instructors in varied disciplines use many types of learner activities such as those below:

Discipline Activities
Art Create a portfolio
Architecture Design a blueprint
Engineering Develop a new product
Education Plan a lesson including all student activities
Nutrition Analyze a diet

But faculty in any discipline shouldn't feel constrained to traditoinal activities.

Discipline Activities
English course Portfolio of early, mid and final versions of papers.
Math course Web site with solutions to problems assigned to individual students; open for review by other students.
Chemistry course Write a paper on the importance of chemistry to the health industry.
Journalism course Review a video of a press conference and identify and analyze social and political implications.
Sociology course Take a field trip to a shopping mall to observe different social behaviors.
Marketing course Conduct a case study in teams. The team members may be from different areas/countries through video conferencing.

Questions for Designing Activities

When you choose types of activities, consider:

  1. What knowledge/skills do you want the students to have at the end of the course?
  2. Do you want to integrate additional collaborative activities, case studies, problem-solving, etc. to involve students in higher level thinking?
  3. Do you want to simply keep the students busy, or do you want the activities to promote deeper learning?

Number of student activities

How many activities a course or lesson should have?
Consider the following:

  1. What is the minimum that students must do in your course to achieve course goals?
  2. What can students reasonably do when they are taking other courses, working, and have a family?
  3. Do you have time to give feedback for activities and assignments as students progress through projects that take several weeks?

Sequence of student activities

It's important to arrange the student activities in a logical sequence in order to facilitate learning. There are several methods to sequence the student activities.

1. Sequence the students activities chronologically:

Before Class Activities Help students prepare for class by giving them assignments such as readings, article reviews, problems, etc. Have them answer questions or submit major points.
In-Class Activities Give students opportunities to practice the skills and knowledge learned within class discussion and give prompt feedback.
Allow students to reflect on what they have learned by activities such as group discussions, submission of the three most important points of class or "fuzziest concept."

2. Sequence the student activities logically:

Fink (no date) – "Each individual activity should build synergistically on students' previous learning activities and prepare them for future activities"

Some examples are as below:

If you want students to: Then precede the activity with:
Write a 20-page research paper A much shorter paper, feedback on outline, or proposed research sources
Write a chemistry lab report A critique of a poorly written lab report
Conduct a case study in teams Teamwork activities, case study techniques, a simple case to analyze
Create an online professional portfolio A one-page simple portfolio with a few links, provide feedback on layout and contents of the portfolio, create a web page
Create a blue print of an office building A simple blueprint of a room


Penn State World Campus (2000) Examples of Student Activities.(Instructional Design and Development)
Retrieved May 14, 2003 from

Dalgarno, B. (1998). Choosing Learner Activities for Specific Learning Outcomes: A Tool for Constructivist Computer Assisted Learning Design.
Retrieved May 14, 2003, from

Fink, D. (no date). Planning your course: A decision guide.
Retrieved May 14, 2003 from

Fink, D. (no date). Intermediate phase (step 6-8): Assembling the components into a coherent whole.
Retrieved May 14, 2003, from

Kearsley, G. & Shneiderman, B. (1999). Engagement theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning.
Retrieved May 14, 2003, from

University of Maryland University College (2003) Teaching/Learning Activities.
Retrieved May 14, 2003, from

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