Think about the last time you either taught or learned something. Was the experience passive or active? Did the strategy achieve the learning objective(s)? What would you have done differently to further enhance the experience?
Although we don’t always have a choice of how a new learning experience is delivered to us, as a teacher or facilitator, we typically do have a choice of how the content is delivered. Choosing the right instructional method and learning activity can determine the overall success of the experience for both you and the learner(s).
Active learning is an instructional method that engages learners to actively participate in their own learning process. It provides an opportunity for learners to think, collaborate, and/or practice skills to apply, synthesize, or summarize new material. Learners engage in meaningful learning activities while thinking about what they are doing (Prince, 2004).
When you decide to give active learning a try, don’t even think about throwing out an already prepared lecture and starting over. Instead, integrate a learning activity into your lecture by creating pauses or breaks throughout the lecture. These breaks, which should only be two to four minutes, become the learning activity. Examples of learning activities to incorporate into your lecture include:
As you prepare to teach or facilitate in a learning environment, rather than putting a traditional lecture together, plan an active-learning strategy to ensure learners are participating directly in their learning. Examples of learning activities include:
Benefits to active learning continue to be supported by literature (Lynch, 2016). Not only do these strategies encourage learner engagement, but they promote higher-order thinking while reinforcing materials and concepts (Gifkins, 2015). They also address different learning styles while allowing learners to practice important skills such as collaboration and communication.
The next time you are planning to teach or facilitate, bring some creativity into the mix by thinking outside the traditional teaching styles by using active-learning strategies. Encouraging your learners to engage in the content and with their peers creates a positive learning environment while enhancing their learning experience.
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Gifkins, J. (2015). What Is "Active Learning" and Why Is It Important? E-International Relations. Retrieved from www.e-ir.info/2015/10/08/what-is-active-learning-and-why-is-it-important/.
Lynch, J. (2016). What Does Research Say about Active Learning? Pearson. Retrieved from www.pearsoned.com/research-active-learning-students/.
Prince, M. (2004). Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231. Retrieved from www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Prince_AL.pdf.
Active Learning (2018). Center for Education Innovation. University of Minnesota. Retrieved from cei.umn.edu/active-learning.
Introduction to Active Learning (2016). Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, University of Michigan. Retrieved from www.crlt.umich.edu/active_learning_introduction.