Activity-based teaching strategies

Activity-based teaching strategies implies active learning on the part of the learner. Strategies include cooperative learning, simulations and games, problem-based learning, and self learning modules—all requires that the learner do more than just listen and study. Learners are engaged in creating and storing up knowledge for themselves.

Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning is based on the premise that learners work together and are responsible for not only their own learning but also for other group members (Lindauer & Petrie, 1997). This involves group of learners that work together to achieve the shared learning goal. Three types of learning groups are as follows:

Formal Groups. To complete a specific learning task consisting of concepts or skills. Example is assigning a group of students to develop a proposal for a clinical research study (Goodfellow, 1995). Assignment like this could be done on the traditional class or distance learning. Students learn from each other as they brainstorm how to approach the study.

Informal Groups. To enhance understanding of a specific unit of information; to make connections prior to learning. An example situation is when you are teaching about the childbirth experience to a group of parents-to-be. After discussing, the group could then turn to each other and discuss what they have learned.

Base Groups. To provide encouragement and monitor progress throughout the learning experience. A typical instance is the orientation or preceptorship programs. A group could be formed and enables the members to share information and experiences, and monitor their progress.

Advantages of cooperative learning

? Group members learn to function as a team.
? Teach or enhance social skills.


Simulations are controlled representations of the reality. This enables the learners engage in learning about the real world without the risks of the real world. Types of simulations are:

Simulation Exercise. A controlled representation of a piece of reality that learners could manipulate to better understand the corresponding real situation. Primarily focus on learning. It is designed to help learners apply and master psychomotor and clinical skills.

Simulation Game. A game that represents real-life situations in which learners compete according to a set of rules in order to win or achieve an objective. Focus on either content or process learning. Content games focus on teaching or reinforcing factual information. An example would be crossword puzzles that aim to teach terminology or bingo games that reinforce previously learned facts.

Role-Playing. A form of drama in which learners spontaneously act out roles in an interaction involving problems or challenges in human relations. This teaching method is effective in helping people gain skill in interpersonal conflicts.

Case Study. An analysis of an incident or situation in which characters and relationships are described, factual or hypothetical events transpire, and problems need to be resolved or solved. Used to apply principles discussed in class, to encourage independent study and critical thinking, and to safely expose learners to real world situations they will encounter in the future.

Purpose and Uses of Simulations

? Intented to help learners practice decision making and problem solving skills, to develop human interaction abilities, and to learn psychomotor skills in a safe and controlled setting.
? Bring understanding to life as situations are acted out.
? Usually worked out by groups of learners (teamwork)—the essence of nursing practice.
? Acquisition of communication skills. Learners can place themselves on the shoes of others and learn something about these people’s feelings and how to interact effectively with them.
? Avenue for attitude change.
? Decision-making skills
? Evaluate learning and competence.

Role of the Educator

Planning. Choosing or developing an appropriate simulation that will meet learning objectives.

Facilitating. Educator may coach the learners who are trying to find their way through a sticky problem, encourage creative thinking, and act as an information resource, but not too quick to give an advice or suggest solutions.

Debriefing. Should occur immediately following the simulation when information is fresh in everyone’s mind.

Problem-Based Learning

An approach to learning that involves confronting students with real life problems that provide a stimulus for critical thinking and self-taught content. It is based on the premise that students, working together in small groups, will analyze a case, identify their own needs of information, and to solve the problems like those that occur in everyday life. This type of exercise will prepare them to be good problem solvers in their future work and will condition them to be lifelong learners. It is probably the most applicable to academic settings, although it can be used in staff development process.

Self learning modules

Also called self-directed learning modules, self paced learning modules, self learning packets, and individualized learning activity packages. A self-learning module can be defined as a self-contained unit or package of study materials for use by an individual. Adult learners who are motivated to learn on their own are, perhaps, the best audience for the use of modules. Self-directed learning is based on some of the principles:

? Adults are self-motivated to learn material for which they see relevance.
? Adults prior experience is a resource for further learning.
? Adults are problem focused and readily learn material they can use to solve problems.

Components of Self-Learning Modules

Introduction and Instructions. Tells the learner how to work through the module, how to use the pretest and self evaluation guides, where to locate resources, what procedures to use for handling in assignments or scheduling skill tests, and what the roles of the educator and learner are.

Behavioral Objectives. It is the writing of the objectives for the module.

Pretest. Designed for nursing students or new graduates, knowledge in order to progress through the module. The pretest include some questions that assess the knowledge of the content of the module itself. If the pretest reveals mastery of certain units of content, the learner should be informed that he or she might skip that part of the module. If the learner want to do a self evaluation or instant feedback, answers to the pretest should be placed at the end of the module.

Learning Activities. It is the planning of content and learning activities. Learning activities may be visual, auditory or tactile. Activities must stress some abstractions and some focus on concrete information. Keep in mind the amount of time the learner will have to complete the module and the learning resources that are available.

Self-Evaluation. Guides that accompany each unit. These guides are short quizzes, based on the objectives, that enable learners to check their progress. The answers to self-evaluation guides should be placed at the end of the module for quick feedback. Performance of less-than-mastery level means that the learner must go back into the unit and repeat the appropriate learning activities. It can also be modified so as to add additional activities if mastery has not been reached.

Posttest. It is the written examination. It may consist of multiple choice and matching items, essay questions, or case studies with questions. It is not a good idea to take the same posttest again in a short period of time, so a second form of the exam should be ready.

Pilot Testing. Done by one or two people, working through the module. Their experience will tell if there are unforeseen snags or flaws in the module and will give an idea of the amount of time it will take for the learner to complete all activities.

Advantages and Disadvantages


? Ability to learn independently at one’s own pace and in one’s own time.

? Individualized approach.
? Makes it possible for a curriculum to be standardized.

Staff development settings:
? Can reduce travel time for conferences and reduce amount of time staff nurses have to be away from their units.
? Reduce the cost of in-service education.


? Learners may miss learning with other people.
? Learners miss the interaction that takes place in the classroom.
? Individualized learning may lead to further procrastination due to lack of structure and deadlines.
? Learners may become less than honest about their results.
? Modules take many hours to design and test.

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