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Increasing Student Achievement in STEM with Active Learning

June 13, 2014
Increasing Student Achievement in STEM with Active Learning

In an analysis published this spring in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers sought out to discover whether lecturing, as a pedagogical style, maximizes course performance for undergraduate students. In total, researchers analyzed 225 studies that show active learning — learning through "doing" — improves student outcomes in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. The results of the analysis show that students "improved by about 6% in active learning sections, and that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning." (Retrieved June 12, 2014, from

While the analysis focuses on postsecondary students, the benefits of active learning start much earlier than college. Indeed, K through 12 students benefit as well. In Research Put into Practice, researchers analyzing Apex Learning digital curriculum and pedagogy confirm that students learn best when they observe, inquire, confirm, connect, and create — the components of active learning. Instruction that emphasizes active learning helps students process and retain information as they build formal knowledge.

According to the analysis put forth in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the activities that constitute instances of active learning required to achieve the gains are some of the most commonly incorporated elements of blended learning. Increasing the instances in which students are actively engaged in learning enhances the benefit to students.

Blended Learning Extends Opportunities for Active Learning

Blog: Blended Learning Essentials

Blended learning combines the strength of face-to-face classroom instruction and technology-enhanced learning. While active learning can happen outside of the context of a blended learning environment, using technology and multimedia enables teachers to engage students by providing new opportunities for students to participate in and construct their own learning. Students are provided with the ability to apply their knowledge in numerous ways to solve problems in new situations that may not be possible in a traditional paper-pencil environment. Using digital curriculum, such as Apex Learning Comprehensive Courses and Tutorials, in a blended learning environment offers many opportunities for active learning, leading to a deeper understanding of the content and increased student achievement


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