While active learning is an effective strategy to engage and maintain students’ interest over the duration of a Block class, these activities must also serve a clear purpose.

This guide outlines examples of how student activities can be scheduled to suit different types of units.

 student working on laptop computer

Student-focused learning activities

We've listed categories of student-focused learning activities in a sequence commonly observed in a Block session.

Type of activity

Purpose 

Tips

Students engage with new material, or make links between new material and current knowledge/ skills

Prepares students for in-class group work

  1. Provide focussed tasks and/or prompting/focus questions.
  2. Allocate some tasks to individuals who will then work together in groups for subsequent activities. Each member of the group will have a unique contribution.

 

Type of activity

Purpose 

Tips

Springboard activity

Specific and direct use of outcomes of before class activity.

  1. For whole of class discussions: use online tools for sharing individuals’ insights with the whole class; i.e. what tool will assist individuals to share.
  2. For paired/group activities: use a jigsaw approach so the group relies on input from all participants.

Reading activity or Watching Video

Very useful for cognitively challenging concepts, difficult to master skills or ambiguous topics.

  1. Allocate sections for in-class ‘specialist’ contributions to group tasks
  2. Schedule activity to follow Academic-led Presentations as a further base from which to apply / practice new material / skills. 

‘Application of learning’ activity 

See how well students have understood concepts, how to follow processes or apply techniques. Suits individuals, pairs or small groups.

  1. Structure activity to uncover commonly-observed student misunderstandings.
  2. Use to determine when the class is ready to move to the next concept.
  3. Use a variety of reporting/ debriefing strategies and online tools to make the learning visible to the whole class.

Assessment-related activity 

Helps to ensure that students are on-target with their efforts

  1. Schedule time for students to progress assessment tasks. Even 15 minutes per session is an active prompt to maintain progress on assessment tasks.
  2. Encourage groups to focus on collaborative aspects of the tasks to reduce the need to schedule mutually convenient times outside of class.

Wrap-up activity

Helps to identify what students thought was significant learning

  1. Be attentive to the student perspective and re-visit topics later if warranted.
  2. Fill in gaps in key learning that have been overlooked by the class.

 

Type of activity

Purpose 

Tips

Revision activity

Reinforce learning by providing opportunities to practise.

  1.  Provide solutions/explanations for student to self-assess their application
  2. Relate to ‘optional’ activates listed in the lesson plan.

 

Academic-focused learning activities

Through the design process, learning is structured to maximise students’ opportunities to extend and consolidate their insights and understandings. Through experience, academics from most disciplines can predict aspects/topics of learning that are regularly challenging. These ‘threshold concepts’ are often suited to a more directive instructional approach.

Below are some strategies to embed academic-led interactive presentations to minimise these sessions morphing into mini lectures. 

TYPE OF ACTIVITY

PURPOSE 

TIPS

Academic-led interactive presentation

Focus on concepts/ practices that are both important for students to understand and challenging to achieve.

  1. Intersperse small activities into a more formal knowledge/ skills development session. Consider questions based on the presentation including:
    • Think-pair-share
    • Apply concepts to a simple problem, scenario or case-study
    • Minute paper—what was most difficult
    • Identify 2 or 3 key ideas.

Academic-led demonstrations

Amplify key learnings from practice.

  1. Intersperse demonstrations of appropriate practice with common errors or exaggerated inappropriate practice. Students evaluate the demonstration using an evaluation form.
  2. Use as an effective pre-cursor to an ‘Application of learning’ activity, or a wrap-up following such an activity.

 

 

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