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University-wide Active Learning Initiative

The Active Learning Initiative supports departments in redesigning their courses to implement research-based active learning strategies and to create sustainable improvements to undergraduate education at Cornell. This project is motivated and informed by a large and growing body of new research from both cognitive psychology and college classrooms, identifying a variety of pedagogical approaches that are significantly more effective for student learning.

University-wide Active Learning Initiative Request for Proposals (PDF)

The first grants resulted in the transformation of seven physics and biology courses to incorporate active learning strategies such as peer instruction and collaborative learning. In 2017, the Active Learning Initiative expanded with new grants to the departments of Mathematics, Economics, Sociology, Physics, Classics, and Music. It is expected that at least 26 courses will be transformed as part of the second phase of the initiative; most of them are large, introductory level courses with a total impact on thousands of students. These new projects will also provide different models for the implementation of active learning methods within a diverse set of academic subjects.

A third phase of this initiative is currently underway. In the fall of 2018, the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation, together with the college deans, has invited departments across the university to submit proposals for funds to substantially improve teaching and learning for significant dimensions of their undergraduate curricula. This new round is an opportunity to extend this effort into a wide variety of disciplines across the university — placing Cornell in the vanguard of an emerging national movement. During this third phase, initiative grants will support large department level projects involving the redesign of multiple courses with a team of faculty over 2-5 years. Grants are available to facilitate the implementation of high-impact active-learning practices, technology-enhanced learning, and other innovative teaching methods.

Pre-proposals are due on Oct. 23, 2018 with final proposals due on Dec. 11, 2018. For more information, please consult the Request for Proposals, or e-mail questions to:

Active Learning Initiative: Research Publications

Ballen, C.J., K.R. Zamudio. 2018. Active learning reduces misconceptions about evolution and promotes inclusivity in large classrooms. In Golding, J., K. Kern, and C. Rawn (Eds.), Strategies for Teaching Large Classes Effectively in Higher Education. Cognella Publishing.

Ballen, C.J., H. W. Greene. 2017. Walking and talking the tree of life: Why and how to teach about biodiversity. PLoS Biology. 15:e2001630. 

Ballen, C.J., C. Wieman, S. Salehi, J. Searle, K.R. Zamudio. 2017. Enhancing diversity in undergraduate science: Self-efficacy drives performance gains with active learning. CBE-Life Sciences Education. 16:ar56.​

Contact Information

Carolyn Aslan

G. Peter Lepage