Engaged Pedagogies

Initial Publication Date: April 22, 2015

Karl A. Smith, University of Minnesota & Purdue University
Kristin O'Connell, SERC, Carleton College

Congratulations on considering Engaged Pedagogies for your students! This module provides insights into the Why, What, and How of Engaged Pedagogies; and links to many teaching activities.

What are Engaged Pedagogies?

We use the term Engaged Pedagogies, coined by Russ Edgerton's 2001 White paper2, to encompass a range of student-centered approaches to teaching and learning. Engaged Pedagogies share aspects with active learning, research-based learning, interactive engagement, and empirically validated teaching practices, and have the following essential features:

  • Purposeful, meaningful, and congruent with practices in the discipline (good "approximation of practice")
  • Aligned with outcomes and assessment
  • Promotes student-student and instructor-student interactions
  • Encourages active learning
  • Respects diverse talents and ways of learning

Why Use Engaged Pedagogies?

The rationale for Engaged Pedagogies is based on what we know about how people learn, that is, learning science research. Teaching and learning research informs us that:
  • Student engagement is highly influential to their academic success and can be improved by classroom instructional techniques 1,5,6,7
  • How faculty deliver the curriculum can increase student's active engagement and knowledge acquisition making it more important to student learning than the content1,5,7
  • Engaged pedagogies increase student performance and decrease failure rates 3,4,8
  • The use of engaged pedagogies help students develop twenty-first century skills needed for effectiveness in the workplace and to become an informed citizen

Learn more about why engaged pedagogies are effective »

Explore Teaching Methods

Find the what, why, and how of many different engaging teaching methods as described by faculty across the country. These materials incorporate rich examples that can help you envision use in your own teaching.

Teaching Methods »


  1. Astin, A., What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited, 1993, San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass. [Astin, 1993]
  2. Edgerton, Russ, Education White Paper, 2001 (downloads as .rtf)
  3. Freeman, Scott; Eddy, Sarah L.; McDonough, Miles; Smith, Michelle K.; Okoroafor, Nnadozie; Jordt, Hannah; Wenderoth, Mary Pat; Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics (opens as pdf), 2014, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci
  4. Johnson, David W., Johnson, Roger T., Smith, Karl A., Cooperative Learning Returns to College: What Evidence is there that it Works? 1998, Change, v20, issue 4, p26-35
  5. Light, Richard J., 'The Harvard Assessment Seminars: Explorations with Students and Faculty about Teaching, Learning, and Student Life. Second Report, 1992
  6. Pascarella, Ernest T.; Terenzini, Pateric T.; How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research, Volume 2 2005, Jossey-Bass, pp 848.
  7. Smith, Karl A; Sheppard, Sheri D.; Johnson, David W.; Johnson, Roger T.; Pedagogies of Engagement: Classroom-Based Practices. Journal of Engineering Education, v 94, 87-101
  8. Springer, Leonard, Stanne, Mary Elizabeth, and Donovan, Samuel S., 1999, Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: a meta-analysis: Review of Educational Research, g. 69, no. 1., p. 21-51.

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