In this article, David Gooblar tackles a very difficult topic for those who practice active-learning: why some students refuse to get engaged in active learning activities.

[I]f you mention to your colleagues that you are thinking of integrating more of these strategies into your classroom, you’ll probably hear dire warnings of student resistance, particularly in the form of poor student evaluations. It makes sense: One way of defining active learning is any teaching practice that compels students to participate. Whether it’s asking a question and then calling on a student for a response, or dividing students into small groups and asking them to work on problems together, active learning forces students to break from the passive role of merely listening to a lecture and taking notes.


You may indeed encounter many students who are still used to doing schoolwork at home and using class time to sit and listen and absorb whatever the professor wants to communicate. Those students may not easily adjust to a course that asks them to work in class, too. For adjuncts and non-tenure-track instructors in particular, the fear of bad evaluations may be enough to make adopting such practices seem a risk not worth taking.

Gooblar suggests that investing the students from the beginning in what active learning will entail in your classroom will help students accept the increased “burden” they are accepting when they sign up for your class. That way, they will also understand better the value of what they are asked to do. Finally, Gooblar reminds us that active learning does not necessarily mean no lecturing, only a decreased emphasis on that teaching method.