Share the Future IV
Isn't Engineering Education Already "Active"? Workshop


John C. Wise
Director, Engineering Instructional Services
College of Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University

There has been quite a lot of talk about “active learning” in higher education. Concrete definitions are difficult to find, and it seems that no single standard can be applied. An interesting quote attributed to Euclid can be found on the active learning Web site “Most ideas about teaching are not new, but not everyone knows the old ideas”. In this workshop, participants will be asked to work together to both define active learning and generate a list of active learning techniques that could be used by engineering educators in a variety of situations. Many workshop participants will be surprised to see the breadth of activities that can be grouped under the rubric of active learning. In the process of carrying out this work, the participants will themselves be immersed in an active learning environment and experience many of the most common techniques employed in adult learning situations. At the completion of this workshop, participants should have an increased understanding of active learning at a practical vice theoretical level, recognizing both how they are and how they are not currently using this approach in their own teaching. In several sessions here at Penn State, participants have been relieved to find that active learning techniques need not be mysterious threats but are rather additional tools for the teacher to bring to any appropriate learning situation.

Statement of Learning Objectives

• Participants will generate an acceptable definition of “Active Learning” in engineering education
• Participants will generate lists of active learning techniques appropriate to large classes, the use of technology, and general learning situations
• Participants will generate a list of situations in which active learning as defined in this workshop would not be appropriate

Following the workshop, the PowerPoint slides and participant-generated information will be available online at



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