Currently in higher education, there is a move towards providing more student-centred learning experiences, where students are actively involved in the learning process. To promote learner engagement and communication between peers, many educators utilise collaborative active learning activities. This study aimed to demonstrate that an active learning curriculum developed for a Chemistry-Biochemistry unit, allowed students to gain a deep understanding of the content, while developing key academic skills. In each face-to-face session of the Chemistry-Biochemistry unit, students participated in collaborative active learning activities including Participation+ and a variety of Padlet activities. The students were also challenged to develop their written communication skills, by taking part in a formative In-Class Writing Task. Survey results indicated that the active learning curriculum provided an engaging, interactive environment that was conducive to the students developing an understanding of the course’s underlying concepts and developing key academic skills. The students communicated their deep understanding of the content verbally during active learning activities and in writing during the In-Class Writing Task, written assignment and final exam. Students who consistently communicated deep knowledge of the content during the In-Class Writing Task achieved high marks on the summative written assignment, final exam and unit total. This study clearly demonstrates that the active learning curriculum employed in the Chemistry-Biochemistry unit provided a collaborative and engaging learning environment, where many students developed a deep understanding of the content and acquired the skills to communicate their knowledge both orally and through written communication.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Average writing level
Danker B. Using flipped classroom approach to explore deep learning in large classrooms. IAFOR J Educ. 2015;III:171–86.
Felder RM, Brent R. Active learning: an introduction. ASQ High Educ Brief. 2009;2(4):1–5.
Gier VS, Kreiner DS. Incorporating active learning with PowerPoint-based lectures using content-based questions. Teach Psychol. 2009;36(2):134–9.
Tofade T, Jamie Elsner M, Haines ST. Best practice strategies for effective use of questions as a teaching tool. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013;77(7):155.
Wood DF. ABC of learning and teaching in medicine problem based learning. BMJ: Br Med J. 2003;326(7384):328–30.
Hmelo-Silver CE. Problem-based learning: what and how do students learn? Educ Psychol Rev. 2004;16(3):235–66.
Ferreri SP, O’Connor SK. Redesign of a large lecture course into a small-group learning course. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013;77(1):13.
Bodner GM. Constructivism: a theory of knowledge. J Chem Educ. 1986;63(10):873–8.
Jones MG, Brader-Araje L. The impact of constructivism on education: language, discourse, and meaning. Am Commun J. 2002;5(3). https://ac-journal.org/journal/vol5/iss3/special/jones.pdf
Trigwell K, Prosser M, Waterhouse F. Relations between teachers’ approaches to teaching and students’ approaches to learning. High Educ. 1999;37:57–70.
Benassi VA, Overson C, Hakala CM. Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/asle2014/index.php. 2014.
Prosser M, Trigwell K. Understanding learning and teaching: the experience in higher education. Philadelphia: Open University Press; 1999.
Kember D, Kwan K-P. Lecturers’ approaches to teaching and their relationship to conceptions of good teaching. Instr Sci. 2000;28:469–90.
Beausaert S, Segers M, Fouarge D, Gijselaers W. Effect of using a personal development plan on learning and development. J Work Learn. 2013;25(3):145–58.
Bergin DA. Influences on classroom interest. Educ Psychol. 1999;34(2):87–98.
Phillips CR, Trainor JE. Millennial students and the flipped classroom. Proc ASBBS. 2014;21(1):519–30.
Smith MK, Wood WB, Adams WK, Wieman C, Knight JK, Guild N, et al. Why peer discussion improves student performance on in-class concept questions. Science. 2009;323(5910):122–4.
Smith MK, Wood WB, Krauter K, Knight JK. Combining peer discussion with instructor explanation increases student learning from in-class concept questions. CBE Life Sci Educ. 2011;10:55–63.
Peterson SE, Miller JA. Comparing the quality of students’ experiences during cooperative learning and large-group instruction. J Educ Res. 2004;97(3):122–33.
Goodwin MW. Cooperative learning and social skills: what skills to teach and how to teach them. Interv Sch Clin. 1999;35(1):29–33.
Loes CN, Pascarella ET. Collaborative learning and critical thinking: testing the link. J High Educ. 2017;88(5):726–53.
Nicol DJ, Macfarlane-Dick D. Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Stud High Educ. 2006;31(2):199–218.
Hattie J, Timperley H. The power of feedback. Rev Educ Res. 2007;77(1):81–112.
Wash PD. Taking advantage of mobile devices: using Socrative in the classroom. J Teach Learn Technol. 2014;3(1):99–101.
Biggs J. Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. High Educ. 1996;32(2):347–64.
Wiggins GP, McTighe J. Understanding by design. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ASCD; 2005.
Bjork RA, Dunlosky J, Kornell N. Self-regulated learning: beliefs, techniques, and illusions. Annu Rev Psychol. 2013;64:417–44.
Lyman F. The responsive classroom discussion. In: Anderson AS, editor. Mainstreaming digest. College Park: University of Maryland College of Education; 1981. p. 109–13.
Mazur E. Peer instruction: a user’s manual (Prentice Hall series in educational innovation). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall; 1997.
Al A, Lockyer L, Lipp OV, Lodge JM, Kennedy G. Inside out: detecting learners’ confusion to improve interactive digital learning environments. J Educ Comput Res. 2017;55(4):526–51.
D’Mello S, Graesser A. Dynamics of affective states during complex learning. Learn Instr. 2012;22:145–57.
Ctariana RB, Wagner D, Murphy LCR. Applying a connectionist description of feedback timing. Educ Technol Res Dev. 2000;48(3):5–21.
Almajed A, Skinner V, Peterson R, Winning T. Collaborative learning: students’ perspectives on how learning happens. IJPBL. 2016;10(2). https://doi.org/10.7771/1541-5015.1601.
Lujan HL, DiCarlo SE. Too much teaching, not enough learning: what is the solution? Adv Physiol Educ. 2005;30:17–22.
Cortright RN, Collins HL, DiCarlo SE. Peer instruction enhanced meaningful learning: ability to solve novel problems. Adv Physiol Educ. 2005;29:107–11.
Wilson K. Scaffolding theory: high challenge, high support in Academic Language and Learning (ALL) contexts. J Acad Lang Learn. 2014;8(3):A91–A100.
Bevan SJ, Chan CWL, Tanner JA. Diverse assessment and active student engagement sustain deep learning: a comparative study of outcomes in two parallel introductory biochemistry courses. Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2014;42(6):474–9.
Samuelowicz K, Bain JD. Conceptions of teaching held by academic teachers. High Educ. 1992;24:93–111.
Trigwell K, Prosser M, Taylor P. Qualitative differences in approaches to teaching first year university science. High Educ. 1994;27(1):75–84.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
For this research project, we gained ethics approval from the Endeavour College of Natural Health HREC (Approval Number: 20160723).
No personal data was used in this publication. All student results and quotes have been deidentified. However, students gave their consent to participate in the study and have the results published by signing a form detailing the study and how the results would be used.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Andrews, D.A., Sekyere, E.O. & Bugarcic, A. Collaborative Active Learning Activities Promote Deep Learning in a Chemistry-Biochemistry Course. Med.Sci.Educ. 30, 801–810 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40670-020-00952-x
- Active learning
- Collaborative learning