Perceptions of Active Learning between Faculty and Undergraduates: Differing Views among Departments

  • Lorelei Elizabeth Patrick
  • Leigh Anne Howel
  • William Wischusen
Keywords: Active learning, undergraduate, faculty, professional development, education reform


There have been numerous calls recently to increase the use of active learning in university science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classrooms to more actively engage students and enhance student learning. However, few studies have investigated faculty and student perceptions regarding the effectiveness of active learning or the barriers to its implementation. Previous work surveying a single class in a single department has suggested that faculty and students have different perceptions of the effectiveness of active learning strategies and the barriers faculty face when implementing these teaching strategies. We expand on these previous findings by surveying a larger and more diverse sample of students and faculty in a college consisting of five departments. We find that students and faculty agree that active learning techniques are useful, effective, and should be implemented more widely, but disagree on the percentage of class time currently devoted to active learning. When we parsed the data by department, more nuanced perceptions became apparent: the perceived barriers to implementing teaching reform differed in importance by department and in some departments fewer faculty had observed and used active learning. Our findings suggest that advocates of teaching reform must recognize that not all departments or institutions face the same barriers to implementing curricular changes.