University of Edinburgh

Curriculum for Excellence

Presented on Friday 25 February 2011

Active Learning

Clare Boyd, Learning and Teaching Co-ordinator
Moira Andrew Chartered Teacher, Teacher of the Deaf

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is learning which engages and challenges children's thinking, using real-life and imaginary situations.

Their learning experiences should provide them with a range of opportunities to continue to engage actively in their learning and to apply their knowledge and skills in practical ways (LTScotland)

Learning through real-life activities

In the Nursery...

play wedding

The Wedding of Goldilocks and Dilan Donaldson

play wedding

Learning through real-life activities in Primary





Learning through real-life activities in Secondary...




A Voyage around the World

voyage around the world

What did the Vikings eat?

viking food

An Archaeological dig

Other ways to get pupils actively involved in their learning

  • Play games
  • Take your learning outside
  • Make the learning real (go to the shops to learn about money, write a blog etc.)
  • Set a research task - individually or as a small group - and present the findings to the rest of the class (PowerPoint, talk, video, glog etc.)
  • Use pupil ideas or interests to choose a topic in which to frame your lesson (news items, sporting event, wedding, etc.)
  • Ask a pupil to lead the lesson – teach what they've learnt to the other pupils

Active Learning tasks to use when supporting pupils in a classroom

Set a challenge: (Think, Pair, Share; individual research; group challenge etc.)

Here's the answer, what's the question?

Use open-ended questions

  • Can you find a way to …?
  • What would happen if…?
  • How do you know…?
  • What did you notice about…?
  • Tell me about…?
  • Can you think of an example of...?
  • Can you think of a better way to...?
  • Why do you think that happened?
  • How can you be sure that...?

Turn a question into a discussion:

  • All bullies are bad people - agree or disagree?
  • Goldilocks did not deserve to be saved - agree or disagree?

Ask a three-part question:

  • ask pupil 1 to answer a question
  • ask pupil 2 if their answer was right or wrong
  • ask pupil 3 to explain the answer

Involve pupils in an evaluation of their learning at the end of a lesson or topic