Active learning is an umbrella term that refers to several models of instruction that focus the responsibility of learning on learners. Bonwell and Eison (1991) popularized this approach to instruction. This "buzz word" of the 1980s became their 1990s report to the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). In this report they discuss a variety of methodologies for promoting "active learning." However according to Mayer (2004) strategies like “active learning" developed out of the work of an earlier group of theorists -- those promoting discovery learning.
It has been suggested that students who actively engage with the material, are more likely to recall information later (Bruner, 1961), but several well known authors have argued this claim is not well supported by the literature (Anderson Reder, & Simon, 1998; Gagné, 1966; Mayer, 2004; Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, 2006). Rather than being behaviorally active during learning, Mayer (2004) suggests learners should be cognitively active.