The Whys and Hows of Active Learning in Large Classroom Settings

Lecture by: Scott Freeman & Ben Wiggins

Active learning methods can be effectively used in large classroom settings. We will demonstrate, discuss, and give evidence for the use of active learning in classrooms of up to 1,000 students. Specifically, we will focus on how instructors can engage students in time-efficient learning activities that foster peer collaboration and problem solving, and promote the development of critical thinking and lifelong learning skills. The workshop will incorporate active learning so that participants can experience some of the methods used in large classroom settings. Participants will also be able to plan for integrating active learning activities into their own large classes.

(UW NetID Required)


Scott Freeman grew up in Wisconsin and received a B.A. in Biology from Carleton College in 1978. After working in environmental education and international conservation for six years, he did graduate work at the University of Washington on the molecular systematics and morphological evolution of blackbirds and received a PhD in zoology in 1991. He had a Sloan Fellowship to support a post-doctoral fellowship in molecular evolution at Princeton University, then returned to the University of Washington as Director of Public Programs at the Burke Museum. Since the mid-1990s his focus has been on textbook writing, teaching, and discipline-based education research. He co-authored Evolutionary Analysis and was sole author of Biological Science, each through four editions; both texts are in their 5th edition. He is currently Principal Lecturer in Biology at the UW, where he has taught over 12,000 students in introductory and upper-division courses. He conducts research on how active learning techniques impact student performance, is a recipient of a UW Distinguished Teaching Award, and is the Project Director for the STEM-Dawgs program funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  

Ben Wiggins is a lecturer in Biology, where he focuses on large undergraduate courses in molecular and cellular biology. He also works as the Instructional Coordinator, where he ties together the largest teaching department on campus and hires, evaluates and mentors teams of instructors and teaching assistants. His research ties together Biology and Education, and focuses on active learning in STEM classrooms, especially on techniques that can activate the largest classes to provide practice opportunities for scientific practices. The inner workings of the cell have been a longtime passion for Ben, but it is teaching that gets him up in the morning and keeps him up at night.