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What is active learning and how effective is it

What is active learning

And if active learning is better than passive learning, why hasn’t education completely switched?

From this article, you will learn:

  • What active learning is, and how it differs from passive and interactive learning;
  • Is active learning more effective than passive learning;
  • Why, despite all the advantages, active learning has not won over passive learning;
  • What is the relationship between the promotion of active learning and teacher education?

What is Active Learning and How Does it Differ from Passive

Active learning is called such learning, in which the student’s activity has a productive, creative, exploratory nature. At the heart of active learning is a constructivist approach: the papers writers does not just fill students’ heads, like empty vessels, but allows them to extract and construct knowledge themselves.

nother analogy: if in passive learning a person receives knowledge “on a silver platter” in a ready-made form, in active learning, he needs to find and “prepare” it himself. Perhaps under the supervision of a teacher and from “semi-finished products” in a safe environment created for this purpose, but – by oneself.

What does this mean? First, in active learning, the student is involved in the process as a fully active participant. And the teacher acts not as a “source of knowledge” but as a mentor, consultant, and facilitator in students’ search for knowledge.

Second, active learning does imply not only the acquisition of knowledge but also the development of skills. These include meta-disciplinary skills such as planning, teamwork, creative thinking, etc. If we talk about children’s education, using active learning methods in school also teaches children independent learning skills that they will need later in life.

As for the definition of “active” itself, it is usually used to emphasize the opposite of the traditional passive approach, in which knowledge is transmitted to the student in a ready-made form.

Are Active and Interactive Learning the Same Thing?

To sort out the definitions, she even proposed a framework (or taxonomy) for active learning, ICAP. However, it does not include the methods of learning, but the types of learning activities:

  • Interactive – students interact with each other on the proposed topics without ignoring the interlocutor’s position.
  • Constructive – students create something based on ideas that go beyond the information they have received (simply put, they connect existing information and new information they are seeking on their own)
  • Active – students do something physically.
  • Passive – students simply perceive information.

Of course, there are other classifications of active learning methods. For example, domestic researchers divide active learning methods into imitational (imitating some activity – role-playing games, case studies, and so on) and nonimitational (such as discussion, project activity, conducting research, and writing a term paper or thesis).

The following division is also given:

  • discussion,
  • game,
  • training,
  • rating.

What is active learning and how effective is it

What is Active Learning

Here are a few examples of approaches and techniques based on one type of active learning. It is not a complete list.

  • Problem-based learning

The essence of this approach is that learning is based on tasks as close to reality as possible. That is, you won’t be able to “sit at a desk” while the lecturer is telling you something; you will have to take an active part in the process.

  • Flipped learning

It is a successful combination of passive and active learning. Students go through all the theoretical material at home – they watch lectures, read textbooks, make notes and take notes. But in the classroom, they are fully involved in discussion with the teacher, not just listening to explanations but also discussing questions posed by the teacher. That is, a class is built on active methods.

  • Phenomenon-based learning

A Finnish approach turns students into researchers and engages them in the educational process. Students ask themselves why everything works this way and not that way? Why does coffee cost so much, and why do they have to wait too long for the green light at the crosswalk? Their task is, on the one hand, to find the answer (not just to prepare a report, but to study it from the perspective of different sciences), and on the other hand, to offer their solution to the problem.

  • EduScrum

The method invented by the Dutch educator Willy Weinand is also a combination of active and passive learning, but there is much more active than passive. The teacher gives the students the necessary theory, then helps them to form teams, and each team creates a project on a designated topic within a given time frame (quarter, trimester, or semester). Of course, there is also control from the teacher and feedback, but the students are largely responsible for the process.

  • Peer-to-peer, or mutual learning

It is a education model where knowledge is not transferred from a professional teacher to a student but from peer to peer. Simply put, people mutually share experiences and knowledge. This kind of learning can be spontaneous (self-education), but it can also be deliberate. Then a teacher or a methodologist, an educational designer, acts as a creator and facilitator of the educational environment.

Even an ordinary school teacher can turn a traditional passive lesson into an active one. For example, an American educator has turned history lessons into investigations in which children extract and collate information. And one geography teacher suggests that after studying serious topics, students use them to devise a plan of action to recreate the world after the alleged zombie apocalypse. That is, children have to actively apply their knowledge to solve the problem, comparing different topics to each other and filling in the gaps if someone missed a topic.

Is it Possible to Organize Active Learning in an Online Course?

Online courses come in many different forms. The simplest version of a course – a cycle of recorded lectures, at best with knowledge testing in the form of tests – is passive learning. But there are also courses based on the solution of some problem (problem) – in which the students independently develop and seek a solution to this or that learning problem while gaining knowledge and experience. It is an example of active learning. Such courses are usually synchronous.

Most often, modern courses and offline educational programs combine elements of passive and active learning – for example, viewing asynchronous lectures, students synchronously develop their projects, or the course provides other active methods. Another way to incorporate elements of active learning into the course is to build it around a branched quest model.

Many modern adult education courses are based on David Kolb’s experiential learning model. In short, its essence is that learning is a transformation of experience through a cycle of trial and error. It is active learning, and the task of the pedagogical designer is to design the conditions for it.

What is More Effective – Passive or Active Learning?

Researchers argue that the most effective combination of passive and active learning. They have been conducting experiments for decades to determine which sequence is preferable. So far, the conclusions are: that it is better to start with passive learning techniques and then move on to active learning. It, however, is confirmed by practice in some approaches.

And if there is a choice, it is considered that active learning is preferable to passive learning. It is confirmed by the results of numerous experiments and studies.

For example, the meta-analysis conducted by specialists from Seattle, Florida, and Maine universities (USA) shows that STEM students get better learning results if they “actively” study. But passive learning is much more likely to lead to the risk of failing exams. Another meta-analysis by Turkish researchers shows that active learning positively affects students’ perception of the program and is much more effective than passive learning.

In addition, active learning has a positive impact on student performance and also helps to discourage cheating.

If everything is so great, why not do away with passive learning and replace it with active learning?

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