TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr. März 2010

Sektion 8.15. New Approaches, Innovations and Research in Education | Neuigkeiten, Innovationen und Forschungen in der Erziehung
SektionsleiterInnen | Section Chairs: Leyla Esentürk-Ercan and Melek Çakmak (Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

 “New Approaches, Innovations and Research in Education”

Preservice Teachers’ Thoughts on Active Learning Techniques in Teaching Context

Melek Çakmak (Gazi University Ankara, Turkey) [BIO]




Active learning requires a high level of pupil involvement in the task. This suggests that pupils might learn effectively in active learning atmosphere. Active learning involves many activities such as role play, project work, and investigation. Recently, teaching techniques used in teaching contexts are generally based on active learning. Related literature indicates that there is considerable amount of research on this issue. This study mainly purposes to determine pre-service teachers’ thoughts regarding active learning techniques in teaching contexts. To this aim, a descriptive study was conducted. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used in order to gather data in the study. A questionnaire as a quantitative technique and open-ended question as a qualitative technique were used. The findings indicated that preservice teachers have stated interesting points about active learning techniques. The findings of the study might be taken into consideration by teacher education programs.



Active learning has received considerable attention over the past several years as Prince (2004) has indicated. Researchers (e.g. Capel, Leask, and Turner, 1995; Johannessen, 1998, Niemi, 2002; Marbach-Ad and Sokolove, 2002; Hall, Waitz, Brodeur, Soderholm and Nasr, 2002; McConnell, Steer and Owens, 2003; Haidet, Morgan, O’Malley, Moran, and Richards, 2004;Kimonen and Nevalainen, 2005) have studied on active learning and pointed out some interesting findings. Researchers define active learning in different ways. According to McConnell et al. (2003), active learning occurs when instructors build learner participation into classes. In other words, students participate instead of simply receive information verbally and visuallyin active learning process (*. Active learning is engaging students in doing something besides listening to a lecture and taking notes to help them learn and apply course material (*. Briefly, students are not learning much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers in active learning approach; students must also talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives (Koç, 2000).

Research has shown that active learning is an exceptionally effective teaching technique. When active learning is compared to traditional teaching methods such as lecture, students learn more material, retain the information longer, and enjoy the class more. Active learning allows students to learn in the classroom with the help of the instructor and other students, rather than on their own (*.Active learning allows each learner to be recognized; provides opportunities for learners to adapt their studies to their interests, reduces the chances of boredom by offering a variety of activities etc. (*.

On the other hand, researchers indicate characteristics of active learning. Some of the characteristics of active learning can be listed as follows: students are involved in more than listening, less emphasis is placed on transmitting information and more on developing students' skills, students are involved in higher-order thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation), students are engaged in activities*. The effective teacher’s task is to ensure that children’s minds are actively engaged in learning as McNamara (1994, p.20) stated.

Learning also requires social skills as stressed in the study conducted by Niemi (2002). Active learning, for example, allows students to take responsibility for their own learning. As Hall et al., (2002) states that related research demonstrates that students develop abilities in communication, critical thinking in addition to achieving learning objectives related to content.

There are any number of teaching strategies that can be employed to actively engage students in the learning process, including group discussions, problem solving, case studies, role plays, journal writing, and structured learning groups. (*. Some of active learning techniques, activities, methods, strategies or techniques can be listed as follows: writing activities, brainstorming, games, debates, group work, case studies, questions and answers, flash cards, mind mapping, concept mapping, flowcharts, models, student-created charts, matrices, problem-based learning, brainstorming, scenarios (;;*

Aim of the study

The aim of this study is to determine pre-service teachers’ thoughts regarding active learning techniques in their teaching contexts.


A descriptive study was conducted in this research. Both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used in order to gather data in the study. A questionnaire as a quantitative technique and open-ended question as a qualitative technique were used.

Study group

The study was conducted with a total of 91 preservice teachers at the Gazi University, Faculty of Education. The 46 preservice teachers comprised the teacher candidates attending departments of social studies while 45 of the preservice teachers attended departments of maths and sciences, all in their 3rd year of study. The main reason for selecting the third year students for the inclusion of this study group is that they have completed a number of courses up to this stage including their current semester, thus their having knowledge about and experience in active learning. The aim of the study is not to reach a generalization but to describe the viewpoints of pre-service teachers at social and science departments related to the research topic. Therefore a broader sampling was not used.


A questionnaire was prepared to determine the preservice teachers’ views about the active learning approach in education. The preservice teachers were given five open ended questions in the survey. The questions which aimed to determine the thoughts of the preservice teachers related to active learning were prepared by the researcher with the help of literature and the researcher’s previous experience in instruction. Moreover, in the prepared survey, some closed ended questions were prepared to obtain the preservice teachers’ views related to the use of active learning in instruction. The final form of the survey was presented to expert views, and the necessary changes were made, which was then finalized for application.

Data analysis

Different analysis techniques were employed for the open and closed ended questions in the study. For the analysis of the open ended questions, content analysis approach was employed. Primarily, the preservice teachers’ responses to each of the open ended question were recorded by the researcher. In the next stage, the most commonly mentioned issues were determined through the frequency method, and the first three of these were tabulated. This procedure was repeated for each open ended question. The results of the analyses were tabulated and the three most emphasized issues among the views stated by the preservice teachers were recorded in the table.



This section presents the findings of this study. First, the preservice teachers were asked, “What is active learning?” The common issues preservice teachers’ definitions are permanent learning, teacher guidance, effective learning, student centred learning, and student participatory learning. Some of the definitions of the preservice teachers regarding active learning are:  “It is facilitating learning in the best and most permanent ways”, “It is a learning method where the teacher and the learner work in cooperation”, “Participation of all students in the classroom and learning the lesson...”, “It is a learning method in which the student is active and involved”, “It means that students learn a subject in the best way”, “It is a way of learning which is facilitated by the two way communication between the teacher and the student, and not only centred on the teacher, but which also includes the students’ participation”, “It is student participation in the lesson together with the guidance of the teacher”, “It is a learning method where the student participates in the learning process with the teacher and the class through two way interaction”, “It is doing the lesson with students doing research related to the topic of the lesson, participating in the lesson and working with the guidance of the teacher”, “It is a way of learning in which the student learns more effectively by doing and experiencing”, “It is learning in which the individuals play an active role in instruction”, “It is an educational method which puts the learning in the centre”,  “It is a learning approach where the student is actively engaged in the learning process”, “It is learning where the students do not learn knowledge only by listening but also by researching and being actively involved in the lesson”, “It means that the learner plays an active role in the cognitive and psychomotor processes of learning”, “It means that the student is involved in the method that the teacher uses in the instructional environment and taking on an active role”.

All this suggests that the preservice teachers’ views are parallel to the definitions and explanations provided in literature regarding “active learning”. The second open ended question posed to the participants was “What are the methods to facilitate active learning for teachers?” The findings that emerge when the responses to this question were analyzed are the following.  

Table 1. The preservice teachers’ thoughts regarding methods facilitating active learning.

Asking questions (n=28)
Utilizing various instructional methods  (n=21)
Material and technology use (n=12)

The analysis of the responses of the participants showed that “asking questions”, “utilizing various instructional methods” and “material-technology use” were mentioned most as ways of facilitating active learning by preservice teachers. Besides these, the participants also mentioned: involving students so that they participate in the lesson, student encouragement towards the lesson, guiding students to do research through projects and homework, providing interesting activities and exercises, games, giving examples and eliciting examples from students, having students experiment, using humour, having students apply/practice, creating a dynamic atmosphere in the classroom, knowing the topic and the classroom, knowing and using active learning methods and techniques, preparing activities, and group work. An examination of the comments shows that preservice teachers mostly choose instructional methods to facilitate active learning. The next question asked to the preservice teachers was “which of the instructional methods support and facilitate active learning?” The answers to this question are summarized below.  

Table 2. The preservice teachers’ thoughts about the instructional methods support and facilitate active learning.

Question-answer (n=70)
Discussion techniques (n=25)
Group work (n=11)

The responses of preservice teachers to this question show that they believe that the most facilitative methods of active learning are question-answer, discussion techniques, and group work. Moreover, a few participants stated that “project and research” can also facilitate active learning and play a role in keeping learners active. Below table 4 shows preservice teachers’ thoughts on the benefits of the active learning approach to teachers and learners.

Table 3. The preservice teachers’ thoughts about the benefits of the active learning approach to teachers and learners.

Benefits to  students
  • Facilitates sustained learning and more permanent learning) (n=46)
  • Enables sustained attention and interest (n=12)
  • Self-esteem develops (n=11)
Benefits to teachers
  • Can evaluate students more effectively (n=14)
  • Aids instruction (n=10)
  • Can make lesson more enjoyable for students (n=9)

According to the participants, the other highest benefits are “increased participation in lessons”, “easier comprehension”, active participation into lessons increases social interaction, lessons are delivered more effectively and productively. Besides these, some other views of the participants are: “develops self-expression and self-esteem”, “facilitates learning by doing, experiencing and experimentation”, “develops research skills”, “facilitates development of skills of problem solving, comprehension, understanding etc.”,  “developing skills of interpretation, decision making etc.”, “enables them to prepare for lessons”, “feeling of achievement increases”, “the learned material is remembered for a longer time”, “complete learning occurs”, “interest and willingness to the lesson increases”, “can do a lot of practice”, “can self-evaluate own learning”, research method develops, learns how to manipulate knowledge, increases courage towards learning, and can examine the subjects from different perspectives and develops a sense of responsibility.

When the opinions about the benefits of active learning to teachers are reviewed, the most prominent three issues are “can evaluate students more effectively (n=14), aids instruction (n=10) and can make lesson more enjoyable for students (n=9). In addition, the following have been mentioned: “facilitates use of time effectively”, makes effective and productive learning easy”, “facilitates interest and attention of students”, “facilitates teachers to understand students’ talents” and “helps in classroom management”. Another question posed to the preservice teachers was “What are the issues that have a negative effect on adopting the active learning approach in your opinion?” The participants’ thoughts on this question can be seen in Table 5.  

Table 4. Thoughts of preservice teachers on the issues that have a negative effect on adopting the active learning approach.

Classroom population (n=65)
Materials and equipment (n=16)
Time n=10)

As can be seen in Table 5, among the issues mentioned by participants about factors that might affect active learning negatively, the most frequently mentioned are “classroom population (n=34).” This is followed by the factors of “material and equipment (n=16)” and “time (n=10)”. This is followed by the statements as “teachers’ knowledge of active learning methods and preferences (n=7)” and “differences in individual talents and level of student readiness (n=4)”. According to them, individual differences among student teachers can have a negative consequence in trying to facilitate active learning. Other issues that follow are “classroom management problems” (n=6), “student habits and unwillingness (n=4)”, “problems in classroom management” (n=3), “preconceptions of learners towards the lesson” (n=2), “seating arrangement in the classroom”, “time” and “tendency of the teacher towards the method”, “classroom organization and classroom atmosphere”, and “inappropriateness of some subjects to active learning approach”. Seven of the participants have left this question blank.

Finally, preservice teachers in the study were asked, “What are your opinions about adopting active learning in your future professional career?” Nearly all of the participants responded to this question with a positive viewpoint. Below are some of the responses of the trainee teachers.

“I think I will be able to adopt active learning because I find it very beneficial for both the teacher and the students…”
 “I believe that with active learning I will be a more effective teacher and will be teaching more effectively…”
“Using active learning will be related to the atmosphere of the classroom and the students.  However, if there are differences in the level of knowledge among students in the classroom, the application will be difficult.…”
“I observed how active learning is implemented during my training, so I can say that some ideas have already formed in my mind as to how to use it.”  
“In my life as a student I generally experienced active learning method; I believe that I can use it in my teaching profession. Moreover, I am aware of how active learning is effective…”
“I think that it can be useful sometimes, but at other times it will not be effective…”
“I believe that I can use it more effectively by adding more experience to the knowledge we acquired after I start the profession.”
“I think that this subject matter needs to be dealt with more in the education courses we take…”
 “I think that active learning will facilitate teaching of the subject matter more effectively…”
“…I think that I will implement active learning, considering the benefits to the teacher and the student.”

When the views of preservice teachers are examined towards this question, it emerges that their responses have a few common points. As can be observed in some of the examples provided above, while some preservice teachers state that they will definitely adopt active learning in their instructional processes, some others state that they are equipped to achieve it with the training they have received. Even if it is not great in numbers, some participants stated that there needs to be more courses in the teacher education program, and some other participants stated that when they think about their own subject area, the possibility of adopting active learning will be low, and that this approach has limitations. 



This part of the study summarizes some emerging issues of the research. The results that emerge based on the views of the preservice teachers are below:


Recommendations for Future Research

When the other studies are examined regarding active learning, one can observe that mostly theoretical information is presented on this issue, and that not many applied research has been conducted. More applied research needs to be conducted on this issue by educational systems based on student centred learning in order to determine the positive or negative factors that emerge in the implementation of active learning. This study was conducted with the students in teacher education programs that are preservice teachers. Finding out their opinions on this issue may provide important information for teacher education programs. In this respect, research of this kind may be structured around a larger sample with different perspectives.  



8.15. New Approaches, Innovations and Research in Education | Neuigkeiten, Innovationen und Forschungen in der Erziehung

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections

TRANS   Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  17 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Melek Çakmak: “New Approaches, Innovations and Research in Education” Preservice Teachers’ Thoughts on Active Learning Techniques in Teaching Context - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW: 17.htm

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