Simultaneous multidimensional impacts of active learning revealed in a first implementation in the MENA region

Alaa I. Ibrahim, Nidhal Sulaiman, Issam Ali

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Enhancing science education in developing countries has been a focal point of many studies and efforts, but reform has mainly been driven by top-down approaches that often face impediments. A shift to active learning pedagogies can potentially address these challenges, but it has thus far been predominantly implemented and understood in developed countries. Thanks to the growing accessibility of open education resources and ubiquitous technologies, education reform can now be carried out from the bottom up. Here, we present the results of a two-year implementation of active learning in five core physics and astronomy courses comprising 2,145 students from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Simultaneous improvements are observed in both students' performance and their perception of the quality of learning; means improved by 9% (0.5 SD) and 25% (1.5 SD), respectively. The performance gap between students in the bottom quartile and those in the top quartiles was narrowed by 17%. The failure rate was reduced to a third of that in traditional classes; this is 36% better than the results in developed countries, indicating a greater need for active pedagogies by MENA students. Our findings reveal a multidimensional positive influence of active learning, the viability of its grassroots implementation with open resources, and its sustainability and reproducibility. We suggest that wider implementation can boost education-driven economic growth by 1% in per capita gross domestic product [GDP], substantially cut costs of repeating courses, and produce a more competent STEM workforce-all of which are urgently needed to stimulate development and growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e2108666119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - Nov 22 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • active learning
  • constructivism
  • evidence-based teaching
  • physics education
  • science and education policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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