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Spaces and Support for Active Learning & Teaching

What is Active Learning?

'Active learning' is the name for a broad set of pedagogical techniques which seek to engage students as participants in learning objectives. There is no singular definition of active learning, but these techniques are easily contrasted with traditional lectures in which the audience is more or the less the 'recipient' of a monologue. Effective active learning can range in complexity from short, isolated exercises, right through an entire pedagogical ethos. 

Active learning has been widely researched and its application in many disciplines is well understood. It is generally accepted that active learning, done well, can:

  • Lower student failure rates and improve overall learning outcomes
  • Add a range of skills and learning experiences
  • Motivate students' independent learning objectives
  • Allow better retention of subject matter, and smooth the transition from course to course, and year to year 
  • Form a strong link a teacher's teaching & research activities


Active learning is not prescriptive of any particular teaching activities. Active learning does not disqualify the use of lecturing, or one-to-many presentations. It does, however, challenge the necessity of this technique in all situations, based on extensive research demonstrating the benefit of other styles of teaching in reaching learning objectives. 


Active learning is also a mindset of learning which must be stimulated and supported in students. Students will be required to do different interpersonal, reflective, cognitive and creative tasks, perhaps tasks they are unfamiliar with in the setting of a University class. It is important to communicate clearly their role in creating a learning environment. Activating students is also about helping them become self-directed learners, and this can also present a challenge. 


Yet active learning implies a different use of teaching rooms than normal classrooms. Frequently, active learning strategies require spaces which facilitate collaboration, discussion, and mobility. Generally, spaces designed for lecture-based teaching present challenges for active learning. There are 1,000's of best practices for Spaces for Active Learning & Teaching across the world, and closer to home in the Netherlands. 

Bringing it all together

Key in accomplishing good active learning and teaching is the appropriate consideration of pedagogy, space, and attitudes. You can read more about the pilot project which tries to forge a collaborative union of these aspects in the tab "Network & Pilot Groups".

  • Read more about "Activating Teaching & Learning" in the Onderwijsvisie here
  • Check some introductory readings and resources assembled here

Purpose of this Site

  1. This site provides and overview of all the spaces which have been developed to support active learning & teaching. Note, it does not currently also provide oversight of rooms which are under (re)development nor rooms forthcoming in new buildings.
  2. Give some first steps towards active learning. There are levels of complexity of active learning. For some, it will be a matter of adding some easy-to-implement techniques to give students more autonomy in their learning. For others, it is an opportunity to create a new approach to teaching, requiring close, prolonged collaboration with an instructional designer. This site should give some practical first steps. 
  3. Generate a network of staff within Leiden University working on the subject, and create the resources necessary to help these people take a step forward together.  

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