Tips on Teaching

Designing Meaningful In-Class Activities

by Kristin Broussard, Graduate Assistant, Reinert Center

Many instructors have heard the term “active learning” and are aware of the push in higher education away from all lecture and towards incorporating alternative teaching methods in the classroom. But how do you design a meaningful activity for your class?

There is no one “right” way to bring active learning into your teaching, nor are there “correct” active teaching methods that apply to everyone. What works for one subject, class, or instructor might not work for another.  It’s largely up to you, the instructor, to determine what activities will work best for your class.

The key to designing meaningful activities is to be intentional. No one likes busywork or to feel like their time was wasted (even if it was kind of fun). Activities should serve a purpose, which is to improve student learning.

Here are some things to consider when designing an activity to ensure it’s a meaningful activity:

  • What do I want my students to learn/gain from this activity?
  • What is/are the desired learning outcome(s)?
  • What is the best type of activity to achieve these learning goals?

Once you have determined the purpose of the activity and the type of activity, here are some things to think about to help you flesh out the activity:

  • What are the students going to do?
  • What are you going to do as the facilitator?
  • How will this activity achieve the learning goals/outcomes? How could you assess whether you achieved the goals?

There are also practical considerations when designing an activity to use in-class. Here are some things you might think about for implementation:

  • How much time will the activity take?
  • What resources do I need to create/modify this activity?
  • Concerns or possible challenges for implementation?

Also, remember that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel! There are lots of online resources for finding good in-class activities in your area, and the Reinert Center can also talk with about ideas.