Designing Active Learning for Health and Medical Education

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session Blended

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This education session is an effort to provide quick strategies and techniques for active learning to Academic Faculty and Instructional Designers in Health and Medical Education for their synchronous/asynchronous/blended sessions and course designs that can be applied to teaching all didactic lecture, clinical, and laboratory sessions.

Extended Abstract

Health and Medical Education faculty who are involved in preparing and educating future physicians face pressures for clinical and research productivity. These faculty who teach future physicians need to work on and develop competencies necessary to train and promote the professional development of medical students and residents. Educating, assessing, and guiding the next generation of physicians represent the central component of the academic contributions of such faculty. This presentation is an effort to help such faculty and the Instructional Designers who help in this field to implement Active Learning in their sessions and course designs to improve the effectiveness of their teaching and help prepare future physicians for their profession effectively. 

Active Learning (AL) can be defined as any instructional method that engages students in the learning process, where students do meaningful activities and think about what they are doing. The goal is to help our students be engaged constantly in relation to the learning outcomes of the course session/overall course. The 3 key dimensions identified through reviewing the literature that should be accommodating/integrating into a course/session design are (Bradford, 2018):

  1. Engagement

  2. Meaningfulness

  3. Reflection


Outline 1: (for brevity, additional outlines are not included)

Preparatory Assessment (10 minutes)

This activity will test students on their preparation provided for this particular class. It could include a short essay (e.g., the 1 min essay) or multiple-choice questions covering homework or other activities designed to prepare students for the class. These questions should make students think critically, creatively, and apply knowledge. This can also be used as a formative assessment by the teacher.

Use of Polls (can use 1 or more; the point of the polls are to initiate the session with activity relevant to the session objectives and to identify the poor understanding of key concepts)

Poll A

Poll B

Introduction (5 minutes)

Unit/Topic/Learning Outcomes (of this particular session): The instructor gives an overview of what will be covered in this session, which includes specific learning objectives.

Common Confusions / Misunderstandings / Explanations (10 minutes)

The instructor will have a class discussion and ask students to explain or defend their answers to the poll questions submitted by the students. The point is to uncover common misconceptions and ensure everyone is on the same page. The instructor can involve other students to comment on each other’s answers as well for this class discussion and can scaffold an explanation overall to help students understand the course unit or topic to achieve the related learning outcome.

Activity #1: (Simple focus on new topic concepts) (20 minutes)

This activity can include a short presentation of new conceptual material or build off the common confusions activity. Activity #1 should be a general treatment of new concepts, facts, and/or procedures (etc.). The activity can also introduce instructions to break out group activities. Activities could leverage any of the following samples, or other collaborative, cooperative activities:

  • analyzing case studies

  • playing a game or simulation that facilitates learning

  • modeling a skill

  • analyzing visuals, graphs, audios or videos

  • solving a problem

  • inquiring about a problem

  • working on an aspect of project based-learning

  • working on an aspect integrated into problem-based learning

Conduct an activity debrief (for instances when breakout groups are used, a group spokesperson presents the results of their efforts and is prepared to explain and defend results. The instructor and students summarize the activity.

Activity #2: (Deeper focus where new topics are worked in context) (30 minutes)

This activity differs from Activity #1 because the instructor introduces opportunities for students to leverage what was covered and to apply that into contextually relevant ways. For example, in a finance course, students could be asked to apply a mathematical formula to derive a business’s financial stability by exploring a different organization than was previously explored.

If breakout groups are used in this activity, then each group could have different organizations to explore or different aspects of one organization’s financial profile to examine.

Structurally, this activity could be organized this way:

  • Give an introduction or breakout group instructions

  • Conduct a poll

  • Start and finish the activity or breakout group

  • Hold a debrief

  • Give an activity summary

Wrap-up (10 minutes)

This activity closes the class session. It is important to leave sufficient time to properly end what was covered and allow for students to reflect and share aspects of what they learned. It is also important to summarize what the session covered and then provide what students need to complete prior to the next session.

The activity can be organized in this way:

  • Conduct a reflection poll

  • Summarize the session

To summarize this outline design, the building blocks in this outline can be reduced in this way:

  1. A preparatory assessment (10 min)

  2. A session introduction (5 min)

  3. Common confusions, misunderstandings, and explanations (10 min)

  4. Activity #1 – new topic general treatment (20 min)

  5. Activity #2 – deeper topic treatment, contextually relevant (30 min)

  6. Wrap-up (10 min)

Each of these building blocks can be innovated upon or used to break up a traditional presentation to promote active participation and contribution by students. The latter makes it a more easily integrated design for those situations when an instructor refuses to change the entire session plan.


The materials provided in this workshop will help health and medical education faculty with resources to facilitate design work for their synchronous, asynchronous, and blended sessions/courses to make them engaging and in a constant flow. The activities in this workshop can help both current remote/online and for the traditional on-ground/blended courses when we get back to our normal routine. The goal is to help our students be in a constant flow and be engaged throughout the course/session. The proposed session is timely and relevant: using learner-centered designs in health and medical education teaching remains an important target as it is not common practice and is an immediate need. 


This OLC Innovate Education session will give the audience an active learning experience by using the approach described in this proposal. Participants will be able to describe active learning and recognize when a course session (live/synchronous/Zoom) design is not fully leveraging the approach. They will see how we are using this approach in fully synchronous/asynchronous/blended session designs. Participants will also receive a link to a project repository with several different block outlines set into a list of educational technologies, academic disciplines in health and medical education, and levels (e.g., undergraduate, graduate, etc.) to improve their own course session designs. Participants will then be divided into breakout groups and will be provided with sample Zoom Session outlines to analyze and critique about their approach. A breakout group debrief will take place to brainstorm and check for answers. After this, participants will submit a reflection poll for which they will think about one question they still have on AL and also think about how they will use this approach for their own course session designs. A reflection discussion will take place at the end to share their plans for implementation with the rest of the participants. 

Learning Outcomes for this session:

  1. Clarify an operational definition of Active Learning

  2. Recognize when a course/session design is not fully leveraging an active learning approach

  3. Apply active learning strategies in your own course/sessions for health and medical sciences majors


Poll Questions (5-minutes)

Participants will be polled with 5 questions on their knowledge of AL.

Introduction/Learning Objectives/Common Confusions (10-minutes)

Operational-definition of AL

Present evidence from the literature regarding why AL should be implemented.

Present three key dimensions integrated into the course design to ensure AL is well implemented

Demo Outline/Access Repository/Present Examples (5-minutes)

Demo a general outline of the AL Approach. Sample:

Provide access to a repository of AL Activity Blocks for synchronous/asynchronous/blended session designs made to fit different academic disciplines related to Health and Medical Majors, and levels (undergraduate or graduate).

Breakout Group Activity (10 minutes)

Participants will be divided into groups of 4 and will be provided with sample session outlines to analyze and critique whether they implement an active learning approach or not. 

Breakout Group Activity Debrief (5 minutes)

They will then share and discuss their approach, thinking, and solutions with all the workshop participants. Each session outline will be reviewed based on the 3 dimensions of Active Learning talked in this education session. All confusion will be clarified.

Reflection (10 minutes)

Participants will then submit a reflection poll (using Google Form) for which they will think about one question they still have on AL. They will also think about how they will use the same approach for their own course session designs for health and medical education. 

After the participants finish submitting the reflection poll individually they will be asked to share their plans with the rest of the workshop participants as a discussion.


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