Active leaning strategies were introduced in the January 1999 ASPEN workshop by David Sokoloff (University of Oregon), Priscilla Laws (Dickinson College),and Ronald Thornton (Tufts University). The introduction of active learning in physics in developing countries is specially encouraged by UNESCO because it fosters hands-on laboratory work, promotes conceptual learning, and encourages instructors to do research in physics education that may lead to a significant improvement in their students’ learning.
Since 2003 ALOP-UNESCO workshops have been conducted in different countries in Africa and Latin America with extremely positive results. The ALOP project centers on experimental optics, an enabling science that is relevant and adaptable to the research and educational conditions of many developing countries. The international team that developed the modules, the hands-on activities, and the ALOP Manual consists of the following members: Zohra Ben Lakhdar (Université El Manar, Tunisie), Ivan B. Culaba (Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines), Vasudevan Lakshminarayanan (University of Waterloo, Canada), Joel T. Maquiling (Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines), Alex Mazzolini (Swinburne University of Technology, Australia), and David R. Sokoloff (University of Oregon, USA).
The activities use simple and inexpensive materials that can be fabricated locally, in order to spread the learning methodology to local educational institutions in a self-sustained manner. The project has been supported by the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics and by the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) since its inception. In addition to giving training to teachers, these workshops have produced new generations of facilitators who are native speakers of French and Spanish and who have collaborated in the translation of the ALOP Manual into those languages. After holding several Workshops in Africa and three in Latin America in English, UNESCO has created two off-spring teams entitled to act as facilitators of ALOP Workshops in Africa and Latin America in French and Spanish respectively.