Active Involvement


"The learner is not a 'receptacle' of knowledge, but rather creates his or her learning actively and uniquely" (Ewell, 1997a, p.6).  "This characterization of learning, of course, is quite at odds with our dominant instructional models" (Ewell, 1997b, p. 4), such as lecture.

Checklist of Observable Behaviors

___ 1.  Participatory behavior (Ewell, 1997a, p.6): The student is active and responsive, and engages in activities. 

___ 2.  Creative thinking (Ewell, 1997a, p.6): The student comes up with his/her own solutions/suggestions, brings new insights to the topic, and becomes able to relate what has been previously learned to new contexts.

___ 3.  Engaged learning (Ewell, 1997a, p.6): The student is able to apply a learning strategy for a given learning situation.

___ 4.  Construction of knowledge (Ewell, 1997a, p.6): Instead of passively receiving the information, the student is given tasks meant to lead him/her to understanding and learning.


            Ewell, P. T.  (1997a, December). Organizing for learning: A new imperative.  AAHE Bulletin, 3-6. [2000, May 17].

            Ewell,  P.  T.  (1997b).  Organizing for learning: A point of entry. Draft prepared for discussion at the 1997 AAHE Summer Academy at Snowbird.  National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS). Available:


In a lesson for grades 1-6, elementary art students are actively involved in the process of learning about other cultures.  Hands-on activities are a good means of learning information about specific areas of life in a particular culture.

For example, in a lesson on making a clay sarcophagus, learning occurs as students gather information about Egypt and watch slides about the Egyptian way of life, the pyramids and their purposes, and the sarcophagus (an inscribed stone coffin).  Learning also occurs when students find out how to create a sarcophagus. As part of this process, they learn about the meaning of the hieroglyphics, the mummification process, and Egyptian gods.  They also actively learn the rules of firing the clay, painting it, and carving hieroglyphics.

Other examples of active learning may include activities such as creating models of natural processes (ecosystems) and participating in a discussion.


Adapted from:

           Killam,  L.  H.  (1999).  Clay sarcophagus [On-line]. Available: [2000, May 17].