The following in-class active learning activities will engage your students in productive learning experiences.

In-class active learning strategies are pedagogical strategies and methods you can utilise in your teaching. These approaches can take a few minutes to spark engagement or be part of extended and connected learning activities across a class or course. You can use these strategies online or in person. However, space and technology can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the approach.

One-minute paper

The one-minute paper is designed to take a minute to complete. It is commonly used at the end of class to diagnose students’ understanding of key concepts or topics but can also be used throughout the lesson. Typically, the one-minute paper will have a reflective element for students and inform teaching staff about the students' learning. Results of the student responses can be discussed before or at the start of the next class as group feedback. You can also use students’ responses to inform what you may need to revise in the following lecture or session.

Why use it?

The one-minute paper can be run in any teaching space and will take approximately five minutes to implement, including instructions and feedback.

This technique:

  • helps to identify student misconceptions early instead of at the end of the semester
  • provides an opportunity for you to deliver additional resources or support in a timely way, and
  • lets students know that you are invested in their learning needs.

How to use it?

  1. Let students know in advance that they may be asked to write a one-minute paper at various times throughout the course and provide instructions.
  2. Stop the class at a given point and provide the one-minute paper with one of the following sets of questions:
    • What are the (two–five) most significant (central, useful, meaningful, surprising, disturbing, challenging) things you have learned during the session?
    • Write three things they learned in class, two things they found particularly interesting, and one question they still have about the content.
    • What questions remain uppermost in your mind about the concept/topic?
  3. Students submit their answers using the format you have chosen. For small classes, you can use paper. For larger classes, it may be easier to collect answers using digital tools such as PadletUQ. You can also set an online activity using a blog or discussion tool to gain insights into what students found most useful and challenging and encourage them to comment on each other’s posts.
  4. Provide a timely response for students based on the paper to show you value student input and encourage students to continue to engage.

Further resources

Top of page


The Think-Pair-Share technique is designed to encourage students to share and discuss ideas around a particular topic, issue or problem. You can use Think-Pair-Share within small and large classes as it is easy to implement. This strategy can be used to gauge conceptual understanding, filter information, draw conclusions and encourage peer learning among students. Encouraging all students to think and discuss in pairs increases the breadth of engagement across the class and supports students to share with the whole class. Students' responses can signal that you may need to re-explain content or provide further support for students.

Why use it?


  • is a quick way to encourage all students in a class to engage in discussion
  • breaks the lecture, giving students time to reflect on challenging content
  • provides students with the opportunity to negotiate meaning with each other and discuss proposed solutions or ideas
  • provides a diagnostic point to ensure students are on track
  • can be incorporated into multiple classroom spaces, including flat floor teaching spaces and tiered lecture theatres
  • can be used in small and large classes.

How to use it?

  1. Let your students know that you will be using the technique and provide them with instructions.
  2. Pose a challenging question around a topic or concept that you know students find difficult.
  3. Think. Begin by asking a question about a topic or concept and allow students to think individually about their answer (30 seconds to one minute). Encourage students to think quietly; even 30 seconds of silence can feel like a long time.
  4. Pair. Each student is paired with another (if uneven numbers, allow three) to discuss their answers (two–five minutes).
  5. Share. Expand the discussion to the whole class by calling upon students to discuss their proposed solutions and any difficulties they had. You can call upon students randomly or have volunteers share their thoughts.
  6. Provide feedback to students. Make sure you encourage responses while you correct misconceptions and reinforce correct answers.

What tools could I use?

UQ provides a suite of collaborative tools that may be useful when implementing the Thnk-Pair-Share methodology.

The active and collaborative learning tools that are centrally supported include:

Further resources

  • Video: how to do a Think-Pair-Share (YouTube, 2m 36s) – TeachLikeThis
  • Think-Pair-Share SERC
  • A related pedagogy is Mazur’s (1997) ‘turn-to your neighbour’ that forms the basis of Mazur’s peer instruction technique. Mazur, E. (1997). Peer Instruction: A User's Manual. Series in Educational Innovation, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Top of page

Peer instruction

Peer instruction is an interactive teaching technique popularised by Harvard Physics Professor Eric Mazur in the late nineties. Mazur developed his version of this practice to address his students’ struggle to apply factual knowledge to conceptual problems. In Mazur’s technique, students move between responding to and thinking about conceptual questions individually, with peers and as a whole class. Peer instruction works on the theory that students at similar cognitive levels can explain content where educators may experience the “expert blind spot” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2006). Mazur claims his technique works best if students prepare before class and then test their application of knowledge in class where they have opportunities for rich feedback (self, peer, and teacher).

Why use it?

Mazur (2001) reported significant learning gains using this technique. Although it was developed in the Science discipline, peer instruction has been successfully transposed to other disciplines. Peer instruction provides a structured way to guide student preparation, in-class active learning and rich feedback opportunities.

A 2020 study (Tullis & Goldstone, 2020) revealed the following benefits:

  • Peer instruction can effectively generate new knowledge through discussion between peers and improve student understanding and metacognition.
  • Content questions of all levels of difficulty benefited from peer discussion. Even questions where less than half of students originally answered correctly saw improvements from discussion.
  • More students switched from incorrect answers to correct answers than vice versa, leading to improving accuracy following the discussion. Answer switching was driven by a student’s confidence in their response and their partner’s confidence.
  • When students create a verbal explanation of their answer to discuss with a peer, they can identify knowledge gaps and construct new knowledge to fill those gaps. Prior research examining the content of peer interactions during argumentation in upper-level biology classes has shown that these kinds of co-construction happen frequently.
  • Pairs have more information processing resources than individuals, so that they can solve more complex problems.
  • Pairs may foster greater motivation than individuals and stimulate the creation of new, abstract representations of knowledge, above and beyond what one would expect from the level of abstraction created by individuals.

How to use it?

There are multiple opportunities within lectures, tutorials and workshops to incorporate discussions and paired activities. The following example is just one model you may wish to try.

  1. Students individually consider the concept question. You may consider using a polling tool such as UQPoll to allow students to report their answers anonymously. Students are typically given two to three minutes to form their responses.
  2. Students work in a small group (two to four people) to discuss their individual answers to arrive at a consensus on the ‘correct’ answer. To reach a consensus, students must explain their own reasoning and problem-solving in support of their answer. Groups are given adequate time to discuss, debate and ‘peer instruct’ one another.
  3. After the group discussion, students are then asked to answer the question a second time, individually. Again, polling tools can be used.
  4. The entire class participates in a discussion led by student explanations of their group’s findings, the instructor clarifying or modelling as needed.

Further resources

Top of page

Predict, Observe, Explain

The Predict, Observe, Explain (POE) is an activity sequence where students are asked to predict a situation, observe actual situation (or data from one) and then explain any differences in what they predicted and observed.

POE technique is based on the Constructivist theory. It considers a student’s prior knowledge and creates conditions for students to re-exam personal understanding.

Why use it?

The POE activity allows students to think critically with great focus on observation, allowing development in critical thinking skills (Abrami et al., 2008). These sequences of activities can be scaled from short activities making a quick prediction to long, complex cases. They can be used for:

  • finding out students' initial ideas
  • providing teachers with information about students’ thinking
  • generating discussion
  • motivating students to want to explore the concept, and
  • generating investigations.

How to use it?

  1. Set up a demonstration or an event related to the topic (this could be data from a study, a video of an event, or a live demonstration).
  2. Predict. Ask students to individually make their prediction and write down and /or discuss what will happen and why. You can collect these observations digitally through PadletUQ, UQPoll or similar.
  3. Observe. Carry out the demonstration or event, allow time for students to observe and take notes.
  4. Explain. Ask the students to review their prediction taking into account of the observation, and put together their explanation.
  5. Encourage students to discuss their explanation together.

Further resources

  1. Chris Joyce (2006) Predict, Observe, Explain (POE),
  2. Video: Predict Observe Explain (YouTube, 4m 4s) – Science on Stage Ireland
Top of page

 Community of Practice

If you would to discuss how to implement blended and active learning techniques such as these, consider joining the Blended and Active Learning Innovation Community of Practice (BALI CoP).

Need help?

ITaLI offers personalised support services across various areas including in-class active learning activities and tools.