Active Learning – An Introduction
How to best teach students is a question on the forefront of any decent teacher’s mind. It is also usually the source of every teacher’s frustration. Why won’t this student pay attention? Why aren’t they engaged? How do I make them care about what I’m teaching? The solution is Active Learning.
Imagine your least favorite class in high school. I bet mine was pretty similar and that’s because everyone’s is pretty similar. The desks are organized in a grid and the teacher is in front of the room talking. Every once in a while he/she writes something on the board for you to scribble down. Your mind drifted to the latest drama in the class or the next basketball game this weekend. As good teachers, this is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
Now imagine your favorite class. Mine was always science and especially the labs. It’s obvious why when comparing it to the least favorite class. I was experimenting and finding things out for myself. Engaged students learn and understand concepts. This is what this Active Learning is all about.
Active Learning Definition
Active Learning is defined as any method to engage students in meaningful learning activities (Prince, 2004). It involves any technique where students explore the information they are learning.
Students are not simply handed the information. That is Passive Learning. In a school day, students face lecture after lecture for hours on end. Most information goes in one ear and flies out the other, without having an impact on their brains. The lower retention of Passive Learning results in lower test scores and less understanding.
With Active Learning, we are trying to engage their intellect. This method demands that they think about the information instead of letting it fly by. But what does Active Learning actually look like?
Examples of the Technique
- debate the intricacies of moral issue;
- work together on a group project;
- research topics on the internet
- experiment with chemicals; or
- try to uncover the the surface area of a sphere.
These practices should be incorporated into every aspect of course work. This can be as simple as pair discussions or problem solving sessions. It takes an immense amount of preparation to incorporate Active Learning into your lesson plans. This is why our next post will cover specific examples and strategies for doing so.
Theory and Statistics
The support behind Active Learning spans different subjects and different levels. Hake showed that interactive course work was almost twice as effective at internalizing conceptual topics for students in introductory physics (Hake, 1998). In 2014, across 225 studies covering different STEM disciplines, Freeman showed that test scores could be improved by 6% and students who did not benefit from Active Learning were 1.5 times more likely to fail. When employing Active Learning models, students are more likely to retain and understand information rather than just hear it. The National Survey and Student Engagement (NSSE) surveyed over one hundred thousands students from 1600 colleges across the USA since 2000. The results? Consistently, hands on, interactive, collaborative learning leads to higher levels of student achievement.
As mentioned above, the next post will cover strategies and examples of Active Learning in your classroom. We will also cover the spectrum of complexity and how to best incorporate these ideas into your classroom. In the meantime, comment any strategies you have implemented in your classrooms whether it be a small group discussions, worksheets, debates, experiments, research papers or anything else!
Drafted by: Mackenzie Brandt ; Edited by Earl D’Souza