Active learning – Definitions

Ideas for activities and tasks to keep your learners active and help them learn and remember terms and definitions.

Caitlin Foran avatar
Written by Caitlin Foran
Updated over a week ago

This article covers our new tasks. If you’re not yet using tasks in your course talk to your iQualify account owner to get them turned on for your organisation.

Nearly every course will have terms, concepts, theories or processes that you're trying to introduce to learners. Things learners just need to know (and remember). By including regular, short tasks to get learners to retrieve information from their short term memory, you'll help them retain what you need them to know.

With our range of tasks there’s quite a few options to keep your learners active. Let’s take a look at a few examples.


In these kinds of tasks, learners have to pair terms and definitions, tool and application etc. 

Matching is especially effective when you have terms or definitions have some similarity. This is because you don't really want learners to be able to guess the match from just skimming for key words. You want them to have to read and interpret the definition.

You can also make things a little more difficult by including "dummy" terms that have no match. In the example below PRINCE2 is a dummy term. Mixing misconceptions in with correct answers can be a great learning opportunity.

Or you could even extend it to interpretation by only using images that represent the methodology (and matching the image with either the name or description).

Fill in the blanks

In these activities learners have to figure out which words or phrases are missing. Through being able to place the term in the right context, we can infer that learners know how to use that term. 

Are there words that learners consistently misuse or mistake for another? Turn your fill in the blanks to a drop down version. You don't want to trick learners, but giving them a chance to experience their misconception, can lead to great learning.

You can use the word in context repeatedly and get learner to say what the word is.

You can also use fill in the blanks as a way to get learners to fill in missing parts from the definition.

Or even construct the entire definition. This would work best with very short definitions or having the definition broken up into clauses or phrases rather than words. 


Using sort is an alternative method you could use in constructing the definition. As with the example above, stick to short definitions or breaking up into clauses.

Multiple choice

Pick the term you want learners to remember, and ask them what it is.

Or, give the definition or description, and ask learners what we'd call this in our field.

As with the fill in the blanks example, if there's a term or idea learners frequently get just a tad wrong. Give them a question which asks them to choose the best definition from many options.


Show the meaning of a new word only by using it repeatedly in context, and ask learners to give the meaning of the term in their own words.


This article was focused on retrieval of definitions (i.e helping learners remember them). And as you can see there are a number of options. 

Include these sorts of retrieval questions regularly in your course and try to mix up the kinds of tasks to keep learners engaged. 

Or, want to see how else you can make the learning active? Pop back to our main Active learning techniques article and pick another from the list.

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