How to Reduce Student Resistance to Active Learning


Discover actionable strategies to reduce student resistance to active learning! Overcome common barriers with transparent explanations, facilitation support, and incremental implementation. Transform your classroom into an engaging space where active learning thrives, celebrating participation and effort. Read now for practical tips and empower educators to reduce student resistance to active learning confidently!

How to Reduce Student Resistance to Active Learning

Active learning has been shown to improve student engagement, retention, and overall academic performance compared to traditional lecture-based instruction. However, some students may resist participating in active learning activities.

Earlier we discussed “5 Common Active Learning Challenges to Address Faster“. This new guide will provide practical strategies to help reduce student resistance to active learning.

The key issue many instructors face is that students are sometimes reluctant to fully embrace active learning methods. This article aims to give educators tangible techniques to overcome resistance and get students on board with active participation.

Reasons for Student Resistance

Before jumping into solutions, it’s important to understand potential root causes of resistance:

  • Fear of the unknown – Students may be unfamiliar and uncomfortable with nontraditional teaching methods.
  • Comfort with lectures – Passively listening to an instructor’s lecture feels safer and easier for some students.
  • Performance anxiety – Students may worry about making mistakes in front of their peers during active learning.
  • Lack of clarity – Vague instructions or goals for active learning activities can heighten confusion and frustration.
  • Time constraints – Students may feel unprepared or rushed to meaningfully contribute during in-class activities.

Check this list we published earlier about “314 Active Learning Techniques for Teachers and Learners PDF Download“. It contains all the active learning techniques everyone can apply.

Strategies to Reduce Student Resistance to Active Learning

The good news is that educators can take proactive steps to address concerns and minimize resistance to active learning:

1. Explanation and Transparency

  • Thoroughly explain the evidence-based benefits of active learning and how it aligns with course goals and objectives.
  • Provide a clear outline of expectations and responsibilities for both students and instructors.
  • To reduce ambiguity, offer detailed instructions, examples, and rubrics for each activity.

2. Facilitation and Support

  • Cultivate an encouraging, judgment-free environment where students feel safe experimenting with active learning.
  • Incorporate activities suitable for diverse learning styles – group work, writing, discussion, visuals, etc.
  • Allow practice opportunities and constructive feedback before high-stakes assessments and evaluations.
  • Circulate around the room during activities to provide individual guidance and support as needed.
  • Explicitly acknowledge student effort and participation to reinforce engagement.

3. Incremental Implementation

  • Introduce active learning gradually, starting with brief, low-stakes activities and slowly ramping up complexity and expectations over time.
  • Give students space to adjust to the new student-centered learning model.

4. Address Specific Concerns

  • If anxiety is an issue, incorporate more small group work and self-reflection to help students gain confidence.
  • Provide advance preparation resources and materials if time constraints are a concern.

5. Additional Tips and Resources

  • Share firsthand accounts or case studies of active learning successfully overcoming resistance.
  • Solicit student feedback and co-create activities to give them ownership over the learning process.
  • Compile relevant books, articles, and professional development resources for continued learning.

You should allow the students to check which learning styles are best for them. This will help them start learning with a style they are comfortable with. This post we published earlier titled “Which Learning Style is Best for You?” provides a step-by-step guide on how to identify your learning style.


Student resistance is a common barrier, but not an impossible one. With purposeful planning, open communication, and a supportive environment, instructors can implement active learning in a way that engages all students.

The strategies in this article aim to give educators actionable steps to proactively address student concerns and reduce resistance to active participation. Start small, lead by example, and don’t be afraid to innovate – your efforts will lead to more meaningful learning and student growth.


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