[:en]By Rhian Ellis, Academic Developer, SALT.

Active Learning in Higher Education 


Why teach like this when learning is like this?
Education Rickshaw 2019 (1)

This blog is about active learning and its growing importance in Higher Education.

It’s also a great opportunity to offer my insight from the SALT ‘7Cs’ January workshop led by Dr. Patricia Xavier from Swansea University’s College of Engineering, ‘Dynamism, conversation and challenge: using active learning and assessment to engage passive learners’.

What is active learning?

‘‘Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves’’ (Chickering & Gamson 1987).

‘Uses active learning techniques’ is one among the ‘Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education’ originally published in 1987 by Chickering and Gamson.

Here are all seven in the original order presented…

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. Uses active learning techniques
  4. Gives prompt feedback
  5. Emphasises time on task
  6. Communicates high expectations
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of doing things

Excellent learning and teaching often combines several or all of the principles in a certain approach.

Some good examples from Swansea University can be found on this link to the ‘Seven Characteristics of a Good University Teacher’ seminar and workshop programme, inspired by a combination of  Chickering and Gamson’s work and Swansea University qualitative module feedback, where you can find videos and blogs on past events and reservation links to upcoming ones.

Chickering and Gamson’s examples of active learning techniques include:-

  • Structured exercises
  • Challenging discussions
  • Team projects
  • Peer critiques
  • Outside the classroom e.g. internships
  • Independent study
  • Cooperative job programmes
  • Students co-designing and co-teaching

All of the above remain crucial areas of academic development in HE today, along with newer concepts such as ‘the flipped classroom’ and ‘blended learning’, which often incorporate learning technologies not imagined in 1989.

Active Spaces and Active Minds

In the HE context, the term ‘active learning’ is now synonymous with the spaces and environments within which active learning takes place, as traditional lecture theatres with large cohorts of students pose challenges in being able to adopt a more active approach. Solutions are sought in using space in innovative ways conducive to active learning, and technology has also enhanced active learning opportunities for larger groups, e.g. A019 at The Bay Campus at Swansea University.

However, it’s important to remember that the concept of active learning is an umbrella term for learning through all sorts of meaningful activities. It’s about the cognitive processes experienced by the learner, rather than the learning environments they are in, per se. By thinking creatively, we can create opportunities for active learning in many areas of ‘traditional’ teaching and learning (such as in the example below).

Active learning techniques are also favoured by employers, offering ‘more opportunity to embed skill enhancement’ such as problem solving, teamwork, communication and enthusiasm…’ (Power 2012).

January’s 7Cs Workshop:

‘Dynamism, conversation and challenge: using active learning and assessment to engage passive learners’

In this session held at A019 The Bay Campus, Dr Patricia Xavier from Swansea University’s College of Engineering shared and reflected upon her experience of introducing active learning and assessment techniques to groups of over 160 students. The session included the chance to participate in one of her active learning exercises.

Why Change?

Patricia began the session by asking us to think about terms such as ‘active’, ‘problem-based’ and ‘experience-based’ learning….what do these pedagogies have in common? They involve students being more ACTIVE rather than in their learning. Patricia quoted Dr Ben Brabon, Senior Advisor at Advance HE, who recently argued that people learn best

‘through doing, asking questions and self-constructing their knowledge. What we discover we are more likely to retain’ (Dr Ben Brabon, 2019)

Patricia explained that her motivation for introducing more active techniques to a construction management module was motivated by many factors – awareness of the pedagogical evidence, learning from peers at SALT conferences, but also first- hand experience of deteriorating attendance and absence of questions asked by and of students in large lectures. Speaking to students revealed an acceptance of the idea that a minimal amount of learning taking place in large lectures, of not retaining much knowledge from them, but simply seeing them as places to be signposted to learn in their own time.

What changed?

With careful planning, Patricia revised her approach to include:-

  • timetabled group learning sessions
  • examination of case studies and project data
  • exploration of interactive tasks
  • peer interaction and instruction
  • structured ‘paired’ weeks
  • formative assessed tasks with feedback, to precede summative ones

Tasks were designed to meet learning outcomes through students:-

  • spending more time together
  • discovering things for themselves
  • problem-solving, and
  • engaging in discussion

Patricia wanted to avoid micro-managing tasks but was available throughout the sessions to answer questions and facilitate the group work, at times having some assistance from a very small number of Demonstrators.

166 students were assigned to four-hour sessions of the above nature. There was an element of self-selection into groups of 3, then groups were groups paired, with some consideration of ability level. It’s important to stress at this stage that her formative assessment sessions were not compulsory, yet students attended.

Getting on with it!

We were asked to ‘get active’.  Putting ourselves in the role of students in groups of four, we attempted one of the activities she had actually used in one of her sessions. I thought this was an interesting and revealing workshop strategy, as we found ourselves experiencing similar emotions to that of Patricia’s students i.e. initial confusion giving way to satisfaction and a sense of achievement as the task progressed. We were asked to capture these emotions on post-it notes – very useful to draw on in risk management.

The ‘7C’s’ session was held in room A019, Engineering Central, which is one of Swansea University’s new bespoke active learning spaces, but Patricia explained that she had introduced her active methods in general teaching rooms big enough to accommodate her students, without any special equipment or software.

Was it worth the change?

Patricia invited feedback from her students, which initially included some opposition – they certainly felt they were being challenged and doing something different to the norm. However, Patricia found that the feedback and reassurance she offered back, combined with the benefits of the approach soon speaking for itself in terms of students’ learning, feedback quickly became very positive, quoting the fun, high level of engagement and staff-student interaction among the things they liked best. Feedback started to include the comment ‘thank-you’.

Were there lessons learned?

Yes. Patricia identified several, which should feature in the risk management of anyone thinking of adopting a similar approach.

  • Managing anxiety levels
  • Facilitation of large groups
  • Mitigation of language difficulties

These could all be addressed in the pre-session information given to prepare students e.g. glossaries, management of expectations, clear explanation of the advantages of active learning.

At the end of the session, I left thinking that Patricia’s new approach echoes many of the ‘Seven Principles of Good Undergraduate Practice’, and was both inspirational and practically helpful to colleagues thinking to make changes in their own teaching and learning.

If you have an example of active learning, especially in the context of a large group/cohort, we would love to hear about it at SALT. Please feel free to comment on the blog or message Rhian at SALT on r.e.ellis@swansea.ac.uk, tweet @rhianellis #susaltcpd.

Additional Resources

(1) Image provided by Stephanie Groshell and Zach Groshell, Education Rickshaw.com:


Extra Reading:

A.W.Chickering  and Z.F. Gamson “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (PDF). AAHE Bulletin. 3.

Research findings on the seven principles. In A.W. Chickering & Z.F. Gamson (Eds.) Applying the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education (pp. 13-25). New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 47. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tl.v1991:47/issuetoc

Power, Jess (2012) Promoting Employability Skills through Active Learning. In: The Second Employability, Enterprise, & Citizenship in Higher Education Conference, Tuesday 27th March 2012, Manchester, UK.





Dulliau Dysgu Gweithredol ym maes Addysg Uwch


Why teach like this when learning is like this?
Education Rickshaw

Mae’r blog hwn yn trafod DYSGU GWEITHREDOL a’i bwysigrwydd cynyddol ym maes Addysg Uwch.Mae hefyd yn gyfle gwych i mi gynnig cipolwg i chi ar weithdy ‘7C’ adlewyrchol iawn Academi Dysgu ac Addysgu Abertawe dan arweiniad Dr  Patricia Xavier o Goleg Peirianneg Prifysgol Abertawe, a’r teitl difyr iawn oedd:‘Dynamism, conversation and challenge: using active learning and assessment to engage passive learners’.


Beth yw dysgu gweithgar?

‘‘Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves’’ (Chickering & Gamson 1987).

Mae’r ‘defnydd o ddulliau dysgu gweithredol’ yn un o’r ‘Saith Egwyddor Arfer Da mewn Addysg Israddedig’ a gyhoeddwyd yn wreiddiol ym 1987 gan Chickering a Gamson.

Dyma bob un o’r saith yn y drefn wreiddiol a gyflwynwyd…

  1. Yn annog cyswllt rhwng myfyrwyr â chyfadrannau
  2. Yn datblygu dwyochredd a chydweithrediad ymhlith myfyrwyr
  3. Yn defnyddio dulliau dysgu gweithredol
  4. Yn rhoi adborth prydlon
  5. Yn pwysleisio amser ar dasg
  6. Yn cyfleu disgwyliadau uchel
  7. Yn parchu amrywiaeth o ddoniau a ffyrdd o wneud pethau.

Mae dysgu ac addysgu ardderchog yn aml yn cyfuno pob un o’r saith egwyddor mewn dull penodol – gellir disgrifio llawer o’r rhain yn ‘weithredol.’ Gellir dod o hyd i enghreifftiau da o Brifysgol Abertawe ar y ddolen hon i’r rhaglen o seminarau a gweithdai Saith Nodwedd sy’n gwneud Athro Da yn y Brifysgol,’ lle gallwch weld fideos a blogiau ar ddigwyddiadau blaenorol yn ogystal â dolenni i gofrestru ar gyfer rhai yn y dyfodol.

Mae eu henghreifftiau nhw o ddulliau dysgu gweithredol yn cynnwys:-

  • Ymarferion strwythuredig
  • Trafodaethau heriol
  • Prosiectau tîm
  • Beirniadaethau gan gymheiriaid
  • Y tu hwnt i’r ystafell ddosbarth e.e. interniaethau
  • Astudio annibynnol
  • Rhaglenni gwaith cydweithredol
  • Myfyrwyr yn dylunio ac yn addysgu ar y cyd

Mae pob un o’r uchod yn parhau’n feysydd hanfodol o ran datblygiad academaidd ym maes Addysg Uwch heddiw, yn ogystal â chysyniadau mwy newydd megis ‘yr ystafell ddosbarth wrthdro a dysgu cyfunol sy’n aml yn cynnwys technolegau dysgu na feddyliwyd amdanynt ym 1989.

Mannau Gweithredol a Meddyliau Gweithredol

Yng nghyd-destun addysg uwch, mae’r term ‘dysgu gweithredol’ bellach yn gyfystyr â’r mannau a’r amgylcheddau y cynhelir dysgu gweithredol ynddynt, oherwydd bod heriau’n gysylltiedig â darlithfeydd traddodiadol gyda charfannau mawr o fyfyrwyr o ran y gallu i fabwysiadu dull mwy gweithredol ynddynt. Gellir ceisio atebion o ran defnyddio mannau mewn ffyrdd arloesol sy’n addas ar gyfer dysgu gweithredol, ac mae technoleg hefyd wedi gwella’r cyfleoedd dysgu gweithredol ar gyfer grwpiau mwy e.e. A019 ar Gampws y Bae ym Mhrifysgol Abertawe.

Fodd bynnag, mae’n bwysig cofio mae term ambarél yw dysgu gweithredol ar gyfer dysgu drwy bob math o weithgareddau ystyrlon. Mae’n ymwneud â’r prosesau gwybyddol y mae’r dysgwr yn eu profi yn hytrach na’r amgylcheddau dysgu y maen nhw ynddynt fel y cyfryw. Trwy feddwl yn greadigol, gallwn greu cyfleoedd ar gyfer dysgu gweithredol mewn sawl maes o ‘ddysgu ac addysgu traddodiadol.’Mae cyflogwyr hefyd yn cefnogi dulliau dysgu gweithredol am eu bod yn cynnig ‘mwy o gyfleoedd i ymgorffori’r broses o wella sgiliau ynddynt, megis datrys problemau, gweithio mewn tîm, cyfathrebu a brwdfrydedd…’ (Power 2012).

Gweithdy 7C Ionawr

Dynamism, conversation and challenge: using active learning and assessment to engage passive learners’

Yn y sesiwn hon yn A019 ar Gampws y Bae, bu Dr Patricia Xavier yn rhannu ac yn myfyrio ynghylch ei phrofiadau o gyflwyno dulliau dysgu ac asesu gweithredol i grwpiau o dros 160 o fyfyrwyr, ac roedd y gweithdy’n cynnwys y cyfle i gymryd rhan mewn un o’i hymarferion dysgu gweithredol.

Pam newid?

Dechreuodd Patricia y sesiwn drwy ofyn i ni feddwl am dermau megis dysgu ‘gweithredol,’ ‘seiliedig ar broblem’ a ‘seiliedig ar brofiad’…beth sy’n debyg rhwng y dulliau addysgu hyn?Maen nhw’n golygu bod myfyrwyr yn fwy GWEITHREDOL yn hytrach na GODDEFOL yn eu dysgu.Dyfynnodd Patricia Dr Ben Branon, Uwch-ymgynghorydd yn Advance HE, a fu’n dadlau’n ddiweddar bod pobl yn dysgu’n well ‘drwy wneud, gofyn cwestiynau ac adeiladu eu gwybodaeth eu hunain. Rydym yn fwy tebygol o ddal gafael ar yr hyn rydym ni’n ei ddarganfod.’

Esboniodd Patricia fod nifer o ffactorau wedi ei chymell i gyflwyno mwy o ddulliau gweithredol i fodiwl rheoli adeiladu – ymwybyddiaeth o’r dystiolaeth addysgu, dysgu gan gymheiriaid mewn cynadleddau Academaidd Dysgu ac Addysgu Abertawe, yn ogystal â phrofiad ymarferol o bresenoldeb sy’n gwaethygu, a diffyg cwestiynau a ofynnir gan fyfyrwyr mewn darlithoedd mawr.Wrth siarad â myfyrwyr,  derbyniodd y syniad mai prin yw’r dysgu sy’n digwydd mewn darlithoedd mawr, nid yw’r myfyrwyr yn dal gafael ar lawer o wybodaeth. Yn syml, maen nhw’n eu gweld fel mannau i’w cyfeirio at ddysgu yn eu hamser eu hunain.

Beth sydd wedi newid?

Felly, er iddi boeni, diwygiodd Patricia ei dull i gynnwys y canlynol:

  • sesiynau dysgu grŵp a amserlennwyd
  • astudio astudiaethau achos a data prosiectau
  • archwilio tasgau rhyngweithiol
  • rhyngweithio a chael cyfarwyddiadau gan gymheiriaid
  • wythnosau ‘paru’ strwythuredig
  • tasgau a aseswyd yn ffurfiannol gydag adborth cyn rhai crynodol

Dyluniwyd tasgau’n ofalus i ddiwallu deilliannau dysgu, drwy sicrhau bod y myfyrwyr yn:-

  • treulio mwy o amser gyda’i gilydd
  • darganfod pethau drostynt eu hunain
  • datrys problemau, a
  • chymryd rhan mewn trafodaethau.

Roedd Patricia am osgoi micro-reoli tasgau, ond roedd hi ar gael drwy gydol y sesiynau i ateb cwestiynau a hwyluso gwaith grŵp. Roedd hi’n cael cefnogaeth gan nifer fach iawn o ddangoswyr ar adegau.

Cafodd 166 o fyfyrwyr eu neilltuo i sesiynau pedair awr tebyg i’r uchod. Roedd elfen o hunan ddewis i grwpiau o 3, yna roedd grwpiau’n cael eu paru. Rhoddwyd rhywfaint o ystyriaeth i lefelau gallu. Mae’n bwysig pwysleisio ar yr adeg hon nad oedd eu sesiynau asesu ffurfiannol yn orfodol ond eto, roedd myfyrwyr yn mynd iddynt.

Mynd ati!

Gofynnwyd i ni ‘fod yn weithredol.’Drwy chwarae rôl myfyrwyr mewn grwpiau o bedwar, gwnaethom roi cynnig ar un o’r gweithgareddau roedd hi wedi’i ddefnyddio go iawn yn un o’i sesiynau.Yn fy marn i, dyma strategaeth weithdy diddorol a dadlennol, oherwydd ein bod ni’n canfod ein bod yn profi emosiynau tebyg i fyfyrwyr Patricia h.y. teimlo’n ddryslyd i gychwyn yna boddhad ac ymdeimlad o gyflawniad wrth i’r dasg fynd rhagddi.  Gofynnwyd i ni nodi’r emosiynau hyn ar ddarnau o bapur – defnyddiol iawn i gyfeirio atynt wrth reoli risgiau.

Cynhaliwyd y sesiwn ‘7C’ yn ystafell A019, Adeilad Canolog Peirianneg, sef un o fannau dysgu gweithredol pwrpasol newydd Prifysgol Abertawe, ond, esboniodd Patricia ei bod hi wedi cyflwyno ei dulliau gweithredol mewn ystafelloedd addysgu cyffredinol a oedd yn ddigon mawr ar gyfer ei myfyrwyr, heb unrhyw offer neu feddalwedd arbenigol.

A oedd hi’n werth y newid?

Gofynnodd Patricia am adborth gan ei myfyrwyr, ac i gychwyn roedd rhai’n gwrthwynebu – roeddent yn amlwg yn teimlo eu bod yn cael eu herio ac yn gwneud rhywbeth a oedd yn wahanol i’r arfer. Fodd bynnag, canfu Patricia fod yr adborth a’r sicrwydd roedd hi’n eu cynnig yn gyfnewid, ar y cyd â manteision y dull yn dweud cyfrolau am ddysgu myfyrwyr. Yn fuan daeth yr adborth yn gadarnhaol iawn, ac roeddent yn dyfynnu’r hwyl, y lefel uchel o ymgysylltiad a’r rhyngweithio rhwng staff a myfyrwyr ymysg y pethau yr oeddent yn eu hoffi orau.Dechreuodd yr adborth gynnwys y sylw ‘diolch yn fawr.’

A oedd anawsterau?

Oedd. Nododd Patricia lawer, a ddylai fod yn amlwg yn nogfennau rheoli risgiau unrhyw un sy’n ystyried mabwysiadau dull tebyg.

  • Rheoli lefelau gorbryder
  • Hwyluso grwpiau mwy
  • Lliniaru anawsterau o ran iaith

Gellid mynd i’r afael â phob un o’r rhain yn yr wybodaeth cyn-sesiynol a roddir i baratoi myfyrwyr e.e. rhestrau termau, rheoli disgwyliadau, esboniad eglur o fanteision dysgu gweithredol.

Ar ddiwedd y sesiwn, gadawais yn meddwl bod dull newydd Patricia yn adleisio sawl un o’r ‘Saith Egwyddor Arfer Da mewn Addysg Israddedig,’ ac roedd yn ysbrydoledig ac o gymorth yn ymarferol i gydweithwyr sy’n ystyried gwneud eu newidiadau i’w dysgu ac addysgu eu hunain.

Adnoddau Ychwanegol


Chickering, A., & Gamson, Z. (1987). “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (PDF). AAHE Bulletin. 3.

Research findings on the seven principles. Yn A.W. Chickering & Z.F. Gamson (Eds.) Applying the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education (pp. 13-25). New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 47. San Ffrancisco: Jossey-Bass. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tl.v1991:47/issuetoc

Power, Jess (2012) Promoting Employability Skills through Active Learning. Yn: The Second Employability, Enterprise, & Citizenship in Higher Education Conference, Dydd Mawrth 27 Mawrth 2012, Manceinion, DU.







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