Faculty Resource Network

An academic partnership devoted to faculty development. Now in our fourth decade, we remain committed to this partnership, and to fostering connection, collaboration, and collegiality among our members.

2018 National Symposium


Transforming Teaching Through Active Learning

When: November 16-17, 2018
Where: Orlando, Florida

Call for Proposals

Proposal Submission Deadline: April 20, 2018

Symposium Description
Active learning is a pedagogical practice that shifts the focus from teacher-based delivery of content to learning activities performed by students. It requires students to engage with course material through reading, writing, discussing, role-playing, listening, and reflecting. Research confirms that by taking a more active role in their own learning, students improve their conceptual understanding, critical thinking, creativity, and interpersonal skills. Active learning has been around for some time, but recent changes in the academy, our students, and the world make this an opportune time to utilize this pedagogy to transform our teaching.

In past decades, students relied on professors and library books as their primary sources of knowledge. But today’s college students do not remember life without a smart phone and its ability to instantly access vast amounts of information through the internet. As a result, college education is shifting from the transmission to the evaluation of information. Active learning is a particularly powerful teaching strategy for cultivating a new generation of critical and creative thinkers. In addition, the complexity of our world’s current challenges—climate change, rising economic inequality, political divisiveness, infectious diseases, to name just a few—require a team-based approach to tackling multifaceted problems. Active learning techniques are well suited to promoting student collaboration towards achieving a shared goal.

Active learning in the classroom can take many forms. Critical reading and writing activities provide opportunities for students to engage with texts and ideas, thereby developing and communicating their own understanding. Games, debates, and role-playing, such as the multi-week activity Reacting to the Past based at Barnard College, present students with stimulating real-life situations in which to apply what they learn. Case studies, now used across the humanities and sciences as well as professional studies, teach students how to collaborate effectively on complex questions lacking clear-cut answers.

Educational technology provides instructors with valuable resources to promote active learning. Course management systems have online discussions boards, in which professors and students can sustain their engagement with the course material beyond the confines of the class period. Student response systems, using clickers or cell phone apps, assess students’ conceptual understanding through classroom polling. To similar ends, professors are using Twitter in the classroom, soliciting instant feedback and questions from students about course content in real time. Tapping into “maker culture,” courses may require a capstone project that involves the creation of a website, video, podcast, or 3D-printed object. In a more radical departure from traditional teaching, some courses are now being offered using the “flipped classroom” model, in which students learn foundational course content outside the classroom, typically via short videos, and use class periods for problem-solving and other activities.

As with any pedagogy, active learning requires thoughtful planning, implementation, and assessment. The 2018 FRN National Symposium provides a forum to explore the many varieties of active-learning techniques, develop best practices for lesson planning, and examine technology-based resources to facilitate student engagement. By the end of the conference, we hope that participants will have acquired a repertoire of active-learning strategies that will transform their teaching. We invite you to join us.

Breakout Sessions and Poster Topics
We invite proposals for breakout sessions and posters in all areas related to the symposium. We particularly encourage submissions that illustrate how participation in an FRN-sponsored activity (e.g., a Network Summer or Network Winter Seminar, or as a Scholar-in-Residence, etc.) has influenced your research and teaching. Examples of suitable topics are listed below, organized into three broad categories. We welcome submissions on other topics as well.

Critical and Creative Thinking

  • Promoting critical and creative thinking through reading and writing
  • Lesson design for active learning
  • Research on active learning (from neuroscience, cognitive science, sociology)
  • News media as a pedagogical tool
  • Using case studies (written and video)
  • Debate in the classroom
  • Role-playing techniques

Using Technology to Promote Active Learning

  • Using the flipped classroom
  • Creating collaborations between faculty members and educational technology specialists
  • Utilizing mobile devices and apps in the classroom
  • Using social media to create a learning community
  • Creating multimedia projects (websites, videos, podcasts, etc.)
  • Designing and evaluating data visualizations
  • Exploring maker spaces as sites of innovation

Social Dimensions of Active Learning

  • Active learning and student success
  • Diversity and creative thinking
  • Experiential and service learning
  • Developing cultural competencies
  • Promoting collaboration in the classroom
  • Developing entrepreneurship
  • Developing lifelong, transferable skills through active learning
  • Assessing active learning and group work

Guidelines for Submission of Proposals
We request a one-page abstract (between 300-500 words) of the intended breakout session or poster presentation. The abstract should outline the content and structure of the session, together with its intellectual merit and education value for the symposium participants. The abstract should include the names, institutional affiliations and contact information for each presenter. Please clearly indicate whether your proposal is for a breakout session or a poster presentation.

Breakout sessions are scheduled for one hour. We encourage submissions by a group of 2-4 presenters, which emphasize collaboration and are organized around a common theme. Proposals submitted by individuals (if accepted) will be combined with other proposal topics within the breakout session.

POSTER PRESENTATION: Poster presentations may be submitted by individuals or by groups of any size.

Proposal Submission Deadline: Friday, April 20, 2018.

Please send your abstract and supporting documentation as an email attachment to: frn@nyu.edu.

Previous National Symposia


  • 2020 National Symposium: "Curriculum Innovation for Transformative Learning"
  • 2019 National Symposium: "Critical Conversations and the Academy"
  • 2018 National Symposium: "Transforming Teaching Through Active Learning"
  • 2017 National Symposium: "Engaging With Diversity in the College Classroom"
  • 2016 National Symposium: "Teaching a New Generation of Students"
  • 2015 National Symposium: "Advancing Social Justice From Classroom to Community"
  • 2014 National Symposium: "The Global Imperative for Higher Education"
  • 2013 National Symposium: "Reinventing Liberal Education"
  • 2012 National Symposium: "New Faces, New Expectations"
  • 2011 National Symposium: "Emerging Pedagogies for the New Millennium"
  • 2010 National Symposium: "Engaging Students in the Community and the World"
  • 2009 National Symposium: "Challenge as Opportunity: The Academy in the Best and Worst of Times"
  • 2008 National Symposium: "Defining and Promoting Student Success"
  • 2007 National Symposium: "Advancing Women and the Underrepresented in the Academy"
  • 2006 National Symposium: "The Millennial Student"
  • 2005 National Symposium: "Spirituality and Higher Education"
  • 2004 National Symposium: "Beyond Brown vs. Board of Education: Diversity and Higher Education"
  • 2003 National Symposium: "Approaching Assessment: The Road Ahead"
  • 2002 National Symposium: "Being a Professor..."
  • 2000 National Symposium: "The Future of Liberal Arts Education"
  • 1999 National Symposium: "The Teaching and Learning Continuum"