Absorb, Do, Connect Framework

The Absorb, Do, Connect framework (Horton, 52) can help inform a course’s rhythm, which is the plan for how activities students do outside of class and during class mesh together. It can also help instructors design a series of learning activities that work together to reinforce concepts and skills.

In courses with a combination of in-person and remote (as well as synchronous and asynchronous) learning experiences, this framework can help determine which activities should happen within a given modality. Often absorb-level activities can happen individually outside of class, and class meeting time can more effectively be used for “doing” and “connecting” activities. However, different arrangements may work better with different learning objectives and teaching styles.

The foundation of the Absorb, Do, Connect Framework is the idea that student learning does not solely consist of students absorbing content. Instead, absorbing content is the foundation of student learning, which is equally as important as both “doing” and “connecting.” Ideally, for any learning objective in a course, students will not only have the opportunity to absorb information, but also actively do something with it, and connect it to other experiences and new situations.

Please consult the chart below and consider how this framework applies to your teaching.

Absorb

  • Learners read, listen, or watch.
  • Provides foundational information. May also include activities the learner does to extract and comprehend knowledge.
  • Primarily individual.

Examples:

  • Readings
  • Lectures, presentations, recitals, etc.
  • Guided note-taking

Related Bloom’s Taxonomy* Levels:

  • Remember
  • Understand

Do

  • Learners complete an exercise.
  • Provides an opportunity to practice and receive feedback. Meaning is built through action. Information and knowledge from the Absorb activities is transformed into knowledge and skills.
  • Primarily interactive and collaborative.

Examples:

  • Case study discussion
  • Think, pair, share
  • Pair programming
  • Laboratory experiment

Related Bloom’s Taxonomy* Levels:

  • Apply
  • Analyze
  • Evaluate

Connect

  • Learners link current information to prior learning and/or other information.
  • Provides an opportunity to expand knowledge and skills to strengthen recall and retrieval. Actively identifying and reinforcing connections bridges gaps and deepens learning.
  • May be individual or collaborative.

Examples:

  • Reflective writing
  • Elaborative discussion
  • Peer review & revision
  • Post-lab report

Related Bloom’s Taxonomy* Levels:

  • Reflective writing
  • Elaborative discussion
  • Peer review & revision
  • Post-lab report

Example in Practice

In a Mechanical Engineering course at the University of Kansas (Whorley et al., 2), this framework was helpful in designing active learning sessions where students review a problem statement and example solution prior to class as an “absorb” activity before class. In class, students work in groups to develop their own solutions to new problem statements. They may also revise their work based on instructor feedback. These in-class activities are “do” activities. After class, students work on more complex problems, to reinforce learning and apply it to new situations as a “connect” activity. This redesign resulted in improved student retention of information shown by improved performance on exams, and students reported feeling more engaged in the class activities and more confident in their own performance.

Connect with Help

To learn more, brainstorm for your course, or get help implementing your ideas, please schedule a consultation

References & Further Reading

  • Horton, William K. (2012). E-Learning by Design. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. Available through the UW Libraries.
  • Whorley, B., Giraldo, C., Kamath, A., McVey, M., Patterson, M., & Luchies, C. (2020). Restructuring a Modeling Dynamics Course with Absorb-Do-Connect Learning Units. American Society for Engineering Education-ASEE. Available through the UW Libraries. 

Published February 2022