Active emotions, active engagement: Interactive presentation for the Global Festival of Active Learning, 26th April 2023

By Nikki Boyd and Kate Ippolito, Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship

We were delighted to facilitate a one-hour interactive, online presentation entitled ‘Active emotions, active engagement’ for the 3rd Festival of Active Learning: hosted by The Active Learning Network and held from 23rd-27th April 2023. The ALN represents “a group of people from around the world who share an interest in active approaches to learning” and the annual (now ‘Global’) Festival of Active Learning provides an opportunity for those within and beyond the network to share and celebrate ideas and research relevant to active approaches to learning.

As enthusiastic and experienced practitioners of active learning with a shared interest in emotion, the two of us were keen to persuade colleagues of the particular value of active learning approaches in enabling learners and teachers to identify and explore the role of emotion in learning. Building on ideas we have previously presented to the ETH Zurich Learning and Teaching Journal, our aim was to help participants appreciate the integral nature of emotion to HE practice and to reflect upon their existing conceptualisations of how they currently work with emotion: along with some options and ideas for reframing these. From the view of active learning, our argument was that by acknowledging the different ways that emotions can manifest and be experienced, we can be better prepared as teachers to facilitate a safe and engaging active learning environment.

With the festival promoted as “a celebratory online event modelled on the idea of outdoor music festivals”, the remit to balance the “fun” and “funky” with some tangible, evidence-informed ideas and strategies in a format which could accommodate a broad range of experience, priorities and time zones (!) took a while to navigate but the final outcome proved to be very well-received. Our opening activity inviting participants to use emojis to introduce their feelings that morning proved to be both insightful and entertaining! Drawing briefly from the some of the broader theory and literature on emotion, we then introduced participants to some models and ideas for thinking about how they might identify and interpret emotion in the learning environment before presenting them with a scenario to discuss in breakout groups. This task allowed participants to draw from colleagues’ experiences across a variety of different contexts in exploring different options for working effectively with emotion in the active learning environment, from which we were able to direct them to some tangible strategies to utilise in their practice.

We enjoyed meeting and working with the members of the network and received lots of positive feedback at the end of the session. The ALN facilitators were also kind enough to compile all of the recordings from the festival on their own YouTube channel, the video is available here.

If this is an area of interest to you or you would like to find out more about our session, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:,

Useful links: