The Effects on Instructor Workload of Implementing Active Teaching Methods to Improve Student Enthusiasm and Performance

  • Cory Mettler (South Dakota State University)
  • Nathan Ziegler (South Dakota State University)


There is an abundance of data that suggest that implementing active teaching methods in the classroom produces a deeper, longer lasting understanding and increased enjoyment of course material. However, most engineering educators do not employ these techniques. This paper addresses three of the most common concerns these educators have: 1. “I don’t have enough time,” 2. “It is difficult to employ active teaching techniques with my course material,” and 3. “I won’t be able to cover all my material if I allow time for the activities in class.” .

Active teaching was employed in two courses in order to improve student enthusiasm for course material and increase understanding of that material. In each course, specific topics were taught using active teaching methods, while others were taught using traditional teaching methods. The active teaching methods employed were simple methods that were uncomplicated to prepare, often requiring less than five minutes of preparation per lecture. The effectiveness of these teaching methods was compared in three ways. First, students’ non-verbal responses to the teaching methods were observed by an independent researcher trained in direct nonparticipation data collection. Both active and traditional lectures were observed using a modified rubric based on Ekman and Friesen’s facial measurement system, which systematized and validated the observations. Second, students’ test scores on topics taught by active teaching methods were compared to scores on topics taught by traditional methods. Third, students were surveyed on their perspective of the effectiveness of the active teaching methods. This data was compared to the time required to prepare these lectures and the amount of material covered.

Results show that, without fail, students were more engaged and scored higher on topics covered using simple active teaching methods as opposed to traditional lectures. Students’ participation levels significantly increased during all aspects of lectures that included active teaching methods, including short periods of traditional lecture that followed the activity. Student surveys suggest that, although students’ perception of active teaching methods was mixed to start the semester, the acceptance of these methods by the end of the semester had increased to 100% and many students desired more active opportunities. The amount of material covered in both classes increased from the previous course offering.

How to Cite:

Mettler, C. & Ziegler, N., (2014) “The Effects on Instructor Workload of Implementing Active Teaching Methods to Improve Student Enthusiasm and Performance”, 2014 ASEE North Midwest Section Conference 2014(1), 1-15. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2014, Cory Mettler, and Nathan Ziegler

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Published on
17 Oct 2014
Peer Reviewed