Active Participation

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Archer (2023) suggests four ways of ensuring students are actively involved in the learning process:

Request frequent responses from students

  • Increased student responses = increased on task behaviour AND Increased academic learning (due to information rehearsal).
  • For each minute, provide 3-5 opportunities for simple responses and 1 opportunity for more complex responses.

EXAMPLES: Choral responses, gestures, holding up response cards, sharing with a partner.

Require overt responses – saying, writing, doing

  • Enables real-time monitoring and checking of student learning.
  • affirmative or corrective feedback can be provided immediately.
  • Appropriate adjustments can be made to the lesson as required

EXAMPLES: Write a one-word response/answer on a mini-whiteboard, read then add one sentence to a sheet or poster, turn and tell your partner what you have learned, copy a particular action/model.

Involve all students

  • Needs to be used in conjunction with explicit instruction, appropriate scaffolding and a safe environment in which students can make mistakes without negative consequences.
  • Have a ‘no-hands up’ policy, as in students do NOT raise their hands to answer questions (with the exception of requesting assistance, clarification or elaboration).
  • Instead have all students respond (see examples in points 1 & 2).

Structure the active participation procedure

  • Explicitly teach students the ‘participation procedure’ before implementing.
  • Requires intentional, structured, planned and consistent usage.


Choral responses

  • Use a hand signal or key word as a signal so everyone responds together.

Partner Responses

  • Designate students in each pair to be 1 or 2, or A or B, or Blue or Red.
  • Direct what each person will do on a given signal – 1s give your response. On a second signal, students stop and then further instructions are provided – 2s say if you agree or disagree and why.

Class discussions

  • Have students first write a response (this could be key words on a mini-white board) or a paragraph response.
  • Students share response with partner.
  • Select students to share with the class. Record responses and encourage subsequent students to add further information and to try to avoid re-contributing points that have already been presented.


  • Students respond by making a hand signal (thumbs up=agree, thumbs down=disagree, thumbs sideways=not sure), hold up fingers 1-4 to indicate answer for a multi-choice question, write a one word response on a mini whiteboard, hold up prepared card (e.g., true/false, noun/verb).
  • Give students thinking time and use a signal so everyone responds at the same time to avoid copying.


Archer, A. (2023). Learning is not a spectator sport: Essentials of active participation. The Bulletin, 59, 2-3