An Active Learning ‘co-created ideas’ collection

Dr Roisin Donnelly and Dr Youcef Sai

What is the idea?

The aim of this work is to apply the active learning (AL) principles of knowledge co-creation and collaboration among academics; a PG Certificate cohort is the example given to illustrate how the communication and collation of ideas among a group of academics happens in practice. The chapter focuses on how a cohort of early-mid career academics can mentor each other and co-create resources. Through their interaction in this active learning activity, inexperienced educators who are interested in improving student engagement, through a process of dialogue and reflection, and in a short time-frame can co-create a suite of strategies that they can take to their own practice, contextualise and implement.

The chapter presents a dialogic and reflective activity targeted at a community of educators participating as learners in an online PG Certificate in ‘University Teaching’. Participants who are from a wide range of subject disciplines are encouraged to discuss and reflect on their own active learning ideas and strategies that they regularly use with their students in their own disciplinary f2f and online classes. By the end of the one-hour PG Cert class, the co-created ideas are formed into a ‘Collection’ (partially shown in the figure below) and subsequently disseminated on the course VLE with all cohorts as a form of inspiration for each other and shared learning across the disciplines. Through engagement with literature, this activity shows how research can inform the development of educators’ AL engagement to enable them to reflect on and then apply AL practices to the classroom.


Range of educators’ disciplines in co-creating the resource collection
Figure 1. Range of educators’ disciplines in co-creating the resource collection

Discussion headings in the ‘Active Learning Co-created Ideas Collection’

  • What are the reasons for designing your classes to be interactive?  
  • What does an interactive class look like in your discipline? 
  • What are the possible barriers to active learning in your discipline? 

Some examples given by this year’s cohort (2021):

  • Lack of flexibility on the part of teachers to be more student-centred in their teaching. 
  • Department restrictions.
  • Culture – old versus new outlooks/perspectives. 
  • Access/use of technology (online). 
  • Lack of practical implementation opportunities. 
  • Psychological/Fear of failure/inability to succeed. 
  • What you do to encourage engagement at the START | MIDDLE | END of a class? 
  • What impact have you observed/measured when using this active learning strategy in your own practice? 

Why this idea?

Two key pedagogic principles of AL have been highlighted in this work – collaborative dialogue and reflection; these have led to a synergetic process of combining content and process from disciplinary traditions to synthesise new ways of knowing, and in this instance, lead to a collaboratively created output. 

This active learning co-created activity has clear benefits by allowing early career academics (who are mainly the participants on this PG Certificate programme), to ascertain what commonalities are emerging among them as a cohort in relation to the active learning headings/themes above, and the knowledge co-creation fosters active and experiential learning, helping them to develop confidence, and learn how to apply knowledge (Chemi & Krogh, 2017).  It is an excellent vehicle for them to co-create a resource for use by themselves in their own classrooms (online or f2f) immediately afterwards as well as into the future. The activity was developed as a direct result of the perceived need identified by the participants themselves in the programme induction. As most of them have just recently begun their teaching positions in the university, they identified that they would value the opportunity to discover a range of strategies from their peers across the disciplines on how to keep students active and engaged. As there were a smaller number of more experienced academics also taking the course, their sharing of their lived experiences on active learning strategies that worked well for their practice was stimulating for the new staff in generating further ideas of their own.

In learning environments of significant diversity, for example, this activity demonstrates the importance of the lecturer/teacher being actively involved in learning about the interests, learning approaches and styles of a range of participants. Diverse participants introduce each other to more issues and perspectives, new knowledge, strategies and applications. The benefits or effects of sharing ideas highlights to participants that any single form of interaction cannot be expected to hold constant for all types of students, particularly in HEIs that offer a wide variety of courses.  This is akin to a community of practice where a shared repertoire of resources are developed: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems (Wenger & Trayner, 2015). However all this takes time and sustained interaction, and what is offered here is an initial step to this goal.

More broadly, this activity and the resulting resource that was co-created promotes the concept of education as a form of ‘dialogue’ that points to emphasising genuine interaction in the hope that it enriches a person’s character by encouraging mutual respect and understanding to develop the caring, critical and creative capacities of the participants themselves (Kazepides, 2012). Positive dialogue and the exchange of ideas aim to bring together the insights and understandings of the different participants to enable a fusion of perspectives.

How could others implement this idea?

For colleagues to put this idea into practice in their own context, the following steps can be adapted for different education contexts:

  1. PRE-ACTIVITY REFLECTION: In advance of the class (up to 3 days prior), a series of both ‘quick-to-implement’ and more considered active learning strategies for the (online) classroom are shared through the two Padlets (links are under ‘Resources’ below).
  2. COLLABORATIVE DIALOGUE-KNOWLEDGE SHARING: At the beginning of the online class for 15-20 mins, participants are invited to discuss from their experience the reasons for designing their classes to be interactive, what an interactive class looks like in their discipline and what are the possible barriers to active learning in their discipline. This discussion forms the basis for the Ideas Collection to be formed.
  3. COLLABORATIVE DIALOGUE-KNOWLEDGE CO-CREATION: To encourage participants to be reflective about how they think about engaging their students at the start, middle and end of their classes, and what has been the outcome of this strategy, these two prompts are included:
    • What you do to encourage engagement at the START | MIDDLE | END of a class?
    • What impact have you observed/measured when using this active learning strategy in your own practice?

    The participants are asked to share in the chat box the activities that they use in their disciplinary context to encourage engagement at the START | MIDDLE | END of a class.  Individuals are invited in on the mic to provide further details especially to talk about what impact have they observed/measured when using this active learning strategy. It was noted that strategies they described may work well across different kinds of classes (large, small, lab etc) and subject areas, but others might well see that some method makes more sense for their situation and teaching context.

  4. POST-ACTIVITY REFLECTION: Participants are informed that their ideas will be collated into an active learning resource for use after the class. These ideas can then be further shared with their peers in the particular departments/ faculties and be implemented with the view of providing an opportunity for reflective inquiry (Brookfield, 1995) to be undertaken with the goal of improving teaching and learning experiences through action research. They are invited in a subsequent class to reflect on the meaning of what they’ve learned as reflective dialogues are an effective method for revealing teachers’ tacit knowledge about their pedagogy.

How the steps fit together: Step 1 of reflection at an individual level is vital for stimulating the participants to engage in the knowledge sharing process in Step 2. It in turn is fundamental for knowledge creation (Step 3), which is a process that culminates in further reflection and the production of new knowledge (Step 4).

Follow-up work is planned to determine the impact of the AL ‘ideas collection’ with staff in their disciplinary practice. This evaluation will be important for establishing the connections between the AL principles of collaborative dialogue and reflection and the co-created resource produced. 

Transferability to different contexts

The online AL activity is applicable to a range of contexts in any community of educators, and can be used by any facilitator of a PG Certificate in Teaching and Learning programme. It is important for educators to create spaces for sharing practice beyond the PD classroom to further organisational learning. The flexibility of a shared resource is that it can be replicated and implemented using a variety of other tools widely available, other than Padlet, such as Jamboard and Bluescape. The use of such tools allows moving deeper into course content, encouraging a more in-depth understanding of material, facilitate brainstorming ideas from the class, and creating a memory of the course. For teaching purposes, these tools visually capture ideas and allow collaboration in real time. For example, in remote learning situations, in courses that focus on developing psychomotor skills and depend on face-to-face (f2f) interaction, these platforms can allow for effective group work among participants in a shared digital space. The activity can work equally well in a f2f classroom, setting the participants up into small groups of 4 and getting them to feedback their responses and ideas on flipcharts/posters. The learnings from the PG Cert context can be extrapolated for a broader educator audience.

Links to tools and resources

Prior to this collaborative AL activity, participants view two Padlets on active learning strategies as a source of ideas from across the higher education sector:


Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. Jossey-Bass. 

Chemi, T., & Krogh, L. (Eds.) (2017). Co-creation in higher education: Students and educators preparing creatively and collaboratively to the challenge of the future. Sense.

Kazepides, T. (2012). Education as dialogue. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44(9), 913-925.

Wenger, E., & Trayner, B. (2015). Introduction to communities of practice. 

Image attribution

Range of educators’ disciplines by Roisin Donnelly via CC-BY 4.0 license

About the authors

Dr Roisin Donnelly is sectoral project manager for professional development in the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.

Dr Youcef Sai currently co-ordinates the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning at the Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre, Technological University Dublin. 


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

100 Ideas for Active Learning Copyright © 2022 by Dr Roisin Donnelly and Dr Youcef Sai is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Share This Book