Skip to main content

Active Learning Techniques Versus Traditional Teaching Styles: Two Experiments from History and Political Science

Abstract

Group role-playing and collaborative exercises are exciting ways to diversify college students' classroom experience and to incorporate active learning into your teaching. This article reports the results of two experiments that compared the effectiveness of role-playing and collaborative activities to teacher-centered discussions and lectures. Using both history and political science classes, we show that the students who participated in the role-plays and collaborative exercises did better on subsequent standard evaluations than their traditionally instructed peers. Presented here is a discussion of active learning, descriptions of the two experiments, and an explanation of the outcomes and implications of the study.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. ASHE-Eric Higher Education Report No. 1. Washington, DC.: George Washington University.

    Google Scholar 

  • DeNeve, K. M., & Heppner, M. J. (1997). Role play simulations: The assessment of an active learning technique and comparisons with traditional lectures. Innovative Higher Education 21, 231–246.

    Google Scholar 

  • Elliot, L. B. (1993). Using debates to teach the psychology of women. Teaching of Psychology 20, 35–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gallup, G. (1965–66). Polling public opinion. Public Opinion Quarterly 29, 547.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gamson, Z. F. (1991). A brief history of the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. In A. W. Chickering & Z. F. Gamson (Eds.), Applying the seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. New Directions in Teaching and Learning, No. 47 (pp. 5–12). San Fransico: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jaques, D. (1992). Learning in groups. Houston: Gulf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ladousse, G. P. (1987). Role play. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marton, F., & Saljo, R. (1976). On qualitative differences in learning: I—outcomes and process. British Journal of Educational Psychology 46 (1), 4–11.

    Google Scholar 

  • McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miller, J. E., & Groccia, J. E. (1997). Are four heads better than one? A comparison of cooperative and traditional teaching formats in an introductory biology course. Innovative Higher Education 21, 253–273.

    Google Scholar 

  • Montgomery, K., Brown, S., & Deery, C. (1997). Simulations: Using experiential learning to add relevancy and meaning to introductory courses. Innovative Higher Education 21, 217–229.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schaftel, F. R., & Schaftel, G. (1976). Role playing for social values. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Somers, J. A., & Holt, M. E. (1993). What's in a game? A Study of games as an instructional method in an adult education class. Innovative Higher Education 17, 243–257.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sutherland, T., & Bonwell C. (1996). The active learning continuum: Choosing activities to engage students in the classroom. In T. Sutherland and C. Bonwell (eds.), Using active learning in college classes: A range of options for faculty, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 67 (pp. 3–17). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Ments, M. (1994). The effective use of role play. London: Kogan Page.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

McCarthy, J.P., Anderson, L. Active Learning Techniques Versus Traditional Teaching Styles: Two Experiments from History and Political Science. Innovative Higher Education 24, 279–294 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:IHIE.0000047415.48495.05

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/B:IHIE.0000047415.48495.05

Keywords

  • College Student
  • Social Psychology
  • Active Learning
  • Political Science
  • Standard Evaluation