Active Learning Masterclass

The University of Sussex hosted an Active Learning Masterclass on the 6th June (#almsussex), a day of sharing strategies to turn students from passive spectators into active creators. This was a collaboration between Technology Enhanced Learning and Wendy Garnham, funded by the Digital Practice Awards, and featured presentations and workshops from both Sussex staff and external speakers.

Mark Fisher – Experiential learning – students as professionals

Mark Fisher, a Senior Teaching Fellow in Accounting, set us off with a talk introducing the initiatives that he and Susan Smith have incorporated into their Audit module. Mark explained that each year they have attempted to introduce a new innovation, starting with flipped learning and this year introducing experiential learning. This innovation was brought about by an identified need for students to demonstrate soft skills, for example group work and problem solving, which employers are increasingly looking for in graduates. Mark and Susan piloted a placement within the BMEc school office with six of their students who worked with the Professional Services staff to audit stationery ordering and inventory processing. Students were then required to provide a report and presentation of their findings. Looking forward, Mark has approached a number of external companies who will be able to  provide placements to a larger number of students.

Professor David Read – Flipped teaching to support learning inside and outside the lecture room

Next up Professor David Read from the University of Southampton talked about his experience of using flipped learning both inside and outside the classroom. This included making lectures more interactive by using methods such as peer instruction, discussions, student-led Q&As and demonstrations. He also talked around the idea of encouraging students to use self assessment and reflective learning methods. All of his ideas were backed up by evaluation evidence and he made strong points about the importance of constantly evaluating, reflecting and refining teaching methods.

Two interesting approaches that we took away from the session were firstly the idea of ‘pre-labs’,  providing introductory videos and animations of common procedures to prepare students for work within labs. The second idea was video marking schemes, annotated videos which talk students through processes allowing them to understand a process in order to be able to apply it elsewhere rather than just skipping to the correct answer.

Professor David Seedhouse – Values Exchange  

Professor David Seedhouse gave a talk around his creation, Values Exchange, a site where ethical moral problems can be posted for students to engage with and answer. The responses to these problems can then be tracked, allowing students to learn about both their own and others’ decision making patterns. Values Exchange is being used with students on the Pharmacy degree to explore reactions and solutions to moral and ethical problems that may be encountered in their future employment.

Dr Alan Richards – LEGO-A-GO-GO

Alan Richards from Coventry University then gave a fantastic talk on how LEGO could be incorporated into teaching using his learning method  LEGO-A-GO-GO . The idea is that the LEGO pieces can be used as a rapid 3D prototyping tool for ideas and concepts, this can then work as a springboard for discussions around the ideas. There are some clear advantages in that the activity can cross any language barrier and enable quieter or more introverted students to feel more confident in expressing their ideas to others. The method also enables students to consolidate their ideas, for example when asked to present their concept in 30 seconds.

Fun fact: There are over 915,103,765 possible combinations for six two-by-four LEGO bricks. (Source:

More information about Dr. Alan Richards work can be found at

Dr Wendy Garnham – Digital Literacy in Foundation Year Psychology

Wendy Garnham closed out the masterclass with a real world example of how her Digital Practice Award  project is using Padlet to allow students to engage with flipped learning methods in a Foundation years Psychology module. Students were tasked with using a range of apps to create multimedia resources which were then posted on a shared seminar Padlet wall. Students created these resources in response to core module readings, experimenting with a new app during each teaching session. Small groups built up a large bank of resources which could then be interacted with by their peers.


Further resources:

If you would like to learn more about this Masterclass or are looking for ways to incorporate active learning techniques into your teaching please contact or get in touch with your school’s Learning Technologist.

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