This forum article is the first in a series on lessons learned and best practices in civil engineering education. The intent of the series is to reinforce good practices, describe new developing practices, and provide a forum for what works well and what does not. This article focuses on the principle of active learning. A good teacher cannot motivate simply by being a subject matter expert and guiding the direction of the learner. A good teacher must also teach, breaking down the material into easily understood pieces and presenting how the material is used, why it is important, and where to go from there. A very small percentage of college undergraduates are highly motivated active learners. The vast majority require at least some direction, an occasional or frequent push, and lost of encouragement. In an active learning environment, students are engaged in the material, actively listening, notetaking, and questioning the teacher and students beside them. There is an energy or slight tension in the room, conveying the material is tough, exciting, and important. Although there may be a great deal of time spent on presentation, the instructor interacts with the students. There is great rapport between the instructor and the students, but it is related to the material at hand and not frivolous. The instructor attempts to make abstractions concrete through illustrations or examples and to keep students involved through a variety of techniques. The best way for instructors to keep students from being bored by a subject is to show them that they are not bored by it. Material should be carefully prepared, but the method of delivery should appear spontaneous, as if the teacher were having the thoughts and presenting that material for the first time.


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  • Accession Number: 00800647
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 21 2000 12:00AM