Stimulating critical thinking

Posted by @natasabrouwer on March 2, 2023, 11:15 p.m.

Natasa Brouwer

Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Challenge and goal

Traditional lectures have been a common teaching method for centuries and are still a widely accepted method in particular in large students groups although there is enough evidence that active involvement is crucial for learning and it is indispensable for the developing of critical thinking. Students in a traditional lecture are passive listeners and take notes to absorb the information presented. There is generally little interaction or discussion between the instructor and the students during the lecture, although the instructor may allow time for questions at the end. When students are not asked to actively participate in lectures, they may have a harder time understanding the material. This can lead to confusion, frustration, and poor performance on exams and other assessments. When students don’t interact with their peers, exchange ideas, and collaborate on assignments, they have a harder time building relationships with their classmates. Active learning lectures make possible to develop deeper understanding and ensure that students don’t miss out on important information and expectations of the course.
Thus it is important that lecturers demand active participation from their students and also that students attend lectures actively.

To tackle this challenges, we propose CPD activities to enthuse and to help lecturers to design and implement active learning methods in their teaching practice.

Topic of the user case


Local context (specific)

Many lecturers still seem to have difficulties to activate their students during the lectures. Students of large courses attend the first and the second lecture and then they don't come any more and study at home. The passing rate on the exam is too low now and in particular assignments that require higher cognitive levels and deeper understanding are not well done.

Local CPD goals

Increase awareness of lecturers that it is important to

  • provide lectures in which students are actively involved
  • motivate students to attend lectures  
  • have high expectations from their students


Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

16 design interactive lectures
8 develop critical thinking by students
11 stimulate discussion
7 read literature about teaching and learning in higher education.
2 attending presentations about teaching approaches.
5 following online courses / MOOC about teaching and learning.

CPD activities at the local university

The CPD activity to achieve the local CPD goals are organized for one teaching team before the start of the academic year or at the end of the first semster. The meeting takes 1.5 hours from 15.30 - 17.00. 

  • a guest lecturer is invited to explain her teaching approach and how she implements discussions in her course / lectures
  • next the lecturers are divided in small groups and re-design a smal part of one lecture to an active learning activity. For this they use the slides that were used during the lecture in the traditional way.   

Teaching and learning materials

Before the meeting, the lecturers are asked to read about the method Think-pair-share.  and to read the article: Mazur, E. (2009). Farewell, lecture?. Science, 323(5910), 50-51. Participants are stimulated (invited) to follow the microMOOC: Mastering the Flipped Classroom: The Power of the Guide on the Side (


Sustainable implementation


Expected impact of the CPD User Case

It is expected that all lecturers in the study programme team start to use think-pair-share discussion type in their lecturers and some of them get trigert to try some other active learning methods.

Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic

A series of study programme team meetings about interactive lecturing and the impact on student learning.

Competence design interactive teaching, Deep learning (type P1-2b, P1-3c)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in designing interactive teaching and how to facilitate student’s deep learning and development of higher cognitive skills and develop attitudes in practicing teaching and learning in an evidence informed way.
The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several hours.
In this CPD scenario the participants are using a very short open online course, a micro mooc (μmooc) and professionalize in a close connection to their own teaching practice (at their workplace) and meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment
Several hours

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See also