Structured Learning Activities Increase Achievement, Sense of Belonging

Structured Learning Activities Increase Achievement, Sense of Belonging

Researchers such as Stanford’s Carl Wieman have long documented the gains in learning and student engagement that can be achieved through active learning (Deslauriers, Schelew, & Wieman, 2013). Now new research highlights how active engagement strategies may be particularly important for Black and first generation students (Eddy & Hogan, 2014). See also the New York Times article “Active Role in Class Helps Black and First-Generation College Students, Study Says” (Sept. 2, 2014).

In one of the first studies to look at student gains by racial group membership and first generation status, Eddy and Hogan found that, when the class included more structured reading questions and small group activities, the greatest gains in achievement were seen by Black and first generation students.

Black students in particular participated more in class, and felt a greater sense of the class as a community. A sense of belonging has been shown in research by Stanford’s Greg Walton and Geoff Cohen (2007) to be important for minority student achievement. Eddy and Hogan’s study highlights how research-based teaching practices can increase learning for all students, while also creating a climate that more fully supports the achievement of underrepresented students.

To add more active learning methods to your class, check out this resource in our Teaching Commons website:

Learning Activities


Deslauriers, L., Schelew, E., & Wieman, C. (2011). Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class. Science, 332(6031), 862-864.

Eddy, Sarah L., and Hogan, Kelly A., “Getting Under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work?” CBE Life Sci Educ vol. 13 no. 3 453-468, Sept. 2, 2014.

Walton, G. M., & Cohen, G. L. (2007). A question of belonging: race, social fit, and achievement. Journal of personality and social psychology, 92(1), 82-96.