As a teaching strategy, “do now” activities are rooted in active learning theories such as constructivist theory (Dewey 1916, 1938) and student-centered learning (Hinton, Fischer, & Glennon, 2012). These teaching approaches value students’ construction of their own knowledge and understanding as opposed to passively receiving knowledge from an expert teacher (Freire, 1993). Today, “do now” activities are widely used across elementary, secondary, and higher education classrooms.
Generally, “do now” activities are brief starter or warm-up activities that occur at the beginning of a lesson. Activities may include responding to prompts or asking questions, and exist in formats such as writing, discussion, or games. These activities foster student motivation and engagement, and prepare students to participate in more traditional class activities.
Active learning activities such as “do now” have been implemented effectively in a variety of educational contexts, as evidenced by examples from research and practice. In one example from a higher education botany course, researchers found that integrating active learning techniques at the beginning of a lesson promotes student engagement and improved learning outcomes (Goldberg, 2011). Additionally, active learning techniques such as “do now” have been widely successful in higher education classroom across subject areas, including psychology (Mason, 2002), engineering (Carpeno, Arriaga, Corredor, & Hernandez, 2011), and other traditionally lecture-based classes (Armbruster, Patel, Johnson, & Weiss, 2009; Gauci, Dantas, Williams & Kemm, 2009; Marbach-Ad, Seal, & Sokolve, 2001).
One benefit of “do now” activities is increased student participation, which research suggests is important to motivation, engagement and academic outcomes. These activities allow the teacher to act as a facilitator (Hmelo-Silver, 2004) as students construct responses to prompts or questions at the beginning of the lesson. Brief and engaging activities help to create a risk-free environment (Bonwell, n.d; Bonwell, 1995) at the beginning of the lesson, and encourage group learning (Michael, 2006). Further, “do now” activities support discussion, which is generally an exploratory method that is popular in supporting student learning (Beck and Eno, 2012). Together, these practices foster increased student participation and there is evidence that suggests that increased participation not only fosters motivation, but leads to improved learning outcomes (Prince, 2004).
Written by Heather Francis, Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education
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