What is Active Learning?

Active Learning is an approach based on the work of Dr. Lilli Nielsen.  It is not just a piece of equipment, such as a "Little Room" or a HOPSA dress, but rather it refers to a total approach, for instructing individuals with severe multiple disabilities.  It contains an assessment, a curriculum, specifically-designed equipment, and instructional strategies that support learners to be active participants in their surroundings.

This approach is closely tied to evidence-based research, such as the work of Jean Piaget's developmental stages of learners. It views the child's development wholistically, including not only motor, cognitive, and sensory skills, but also social and emotional development.

Lives Changed At Penrickton Schools

Watch this video to see how Active Learning is used at the Penrickton Center for Blind Children. 


What type of learner benefits from an Active Learning approach?

Dr. Lilli NielsenThe Active Learning approach can be used in conjunction with other approaches, such as the work of Dr. Jan van Dijk.  Though initially this approach was designed for individuals with visual impairments and deafblindness, it has proven to be effective with individuals with other signicant disabilities, such as autism and cerebral palsy.

It is an approach that can be used with all learners, but is most effective for those who have significant multiple disabilities and are functioning in the 0-48 month developmental level.  The Active Learning approach can be used with individuals with various visual conditions, such as CVI (Cortical Visual Impairment) and ONH (Optic Nerve Hypoplasia), as well as with those who are deafblind or medically fragile.

We invite you to explore the world of Active Learning!  Share your ideas and questions.

Have Great Ideas? Share Them

We also appreciate your insights and experiences as you begin to implement Active Learning approaches in your school or home.  We would love to be able to post pictures and videos of what you are doing.  If you have something you would like to share on the website, please contact Charlotte Cushman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  We will need media release forms for everyone that appears in your video or photos.  Please download this form (pdf file or docx file) and send the completed form in an attachment along with your content to Charlotte.


Active Learning collage


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