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Active Learning with AI:
A Practical Guide
Stephen M. Kosslyn

Demystifying AI and its relationship to education, this book provides a wealth of step-by-step illustrations and examples to help instructors and course designers both understand AI concepts and use them to build stimulating active learning exercises and lesson plans.

Active learning has been shown to be more effective than traditional teaching methods, but can be labor intensive and challenging to implement at scale. AIs can help enhance active learning in various ways, such as by personalizing instruction, providing real-time feedback, and enabling new interactive learning formats. AI systems (like ChatGPT, GPT-4, Claude and Bard) can be used to design, deliver, and assess active learning exercises. They can adjust difficulty level, incorporate learner interests, create assessments, and provide feedback.  Moreover, using AI for active learning can blend asynchronous and synchronous learning; learners can interact with AI conveniently on their own time, while still receiving dynamic feedback. This enables a more engaging, personalized, and scalable learning experience. The book stresses that effective active learning starts with clear, measurable learning objectives, which AI can help generate and organize—and such learning objectives guide development of aligned activities and assessments. The core of the book consists of many illustrations of how AI can be used to leverage principles from the science of learning, such as deep processing, chunking, and deliberate practice. The book argues that AI opens new possibilities for active learning, but requires human guidance. Used thoughtfully, AIs can make learning more engaging, personalized, and scalable while drawing on learning science principles.

Listen to Dr. Kosslyn discuss Future-Proofed Education

​Read an interview with Dr. Kosslyn about Active Learning Online​

​Dr. Kosslyn's interview on the Trending in Education podcast

Access Dr. Kosslyn's recent webinar on Active Learning



About the Author    
Active Learning and AI
Using AI in Active Learning    
The Science of Learning    
Deep Processing
Building Associations
Dual Coding
Deliberate Practice
Combining Principles
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
Creating, Situating, and Evaluating Activities



About the Author


Stephen M. Kosslyn is currently the Founder, President and Chief Academic Officer of Foundry College and is Founder and President of Active Learning Sciences. Prior to that, he was Founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer of the Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute. He previously served as Director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University after having been chair of the Department of Psychology, Dean of Social Science, and the John Lindsley Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. While at Harvard, he was also co-director of the Mind of the Market Lab at Harvard Business School and a member of the Department of Neurology at the Mass. General Hospital. He received a B.A. from UCLA and a Ph.D. from Stanford University, both in psychology. Kosslyn's research has focused on the nature of visual cognition, visual communication, and the science of learning; he has authored or co-authored 14 books and over 300 papers on these topics. Kosslyn has received numerous honors, including the National Academy of Sciences Initiatives in Research Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three honorary Doctorates (University of Caen, University of Paris Descartes, Bern University), and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Additional Resources

active learning resources

Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching

Active Learning Resources

active learning resources

University of Michigan's Center for Research on Learning and Teaching

Active Learning Resources

online teaching

Northwestern University's

Digital Learning Resources


"While the threats that AI platforms like ChatGPT pose to education have been very clear, the benefits have, for most educators, been harder to recognize, let alone implement. Kosslyn does a masterful job of laying out how AI can be used to support deep student learning, beginning with broad principles, then providing supporting details, all the way down to specific examples of prompts for lessons. This book not only has ready utility, it is an inspiration.”


Daniel T. Willingham, Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia                

“One of the world’s foremost experts on the science of learning, Stephen Kosslyn has written the book we need at this important moment to guide the use of generative AI in ways that will improve teaching and learning.

Teressa A. Cannon, Founding President, Minerva University

“In this timely book, Stephen Kosslyn synthesizes what's been established about effective teaching and learning -- and then demonstrates how to mobilize this knowledge in the world of ChatGPT and other Large Language Models.”

Howard Gardner, Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education

"Get a cup of coffee, your favorite Generative AI program, and Kosslyn's meet-the-moment book. You will be captivated by exercising the mind-blowing examples of what you and AI can do together to support learners.”

Dan Schwartz, Dean, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University

“The recent emergence of AI tools such as ChatGPT has potentially profound implications for education. Combining his expertise in cognitive psychology, hands-on experience as an educator, and engagement with AI, Stephen Kosslyn has provided an invaluable guide for fellow educators seeking to navigate this new terrain.  I can't think of anyone else better suited to the task, and Kosslyn has delivered admirably with this timely, clearly written, and pragmatic volume.”

Daniel L. Schacter, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers.

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