Active Learning

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is an umbrella term referring to a range of teaching strategies and educational technologies that get learners actively involved in the process of learning and constructing their own understanding, rather than passively receiving information, as when listening to a lecture or watching a video.  In fact, many people find it easier to define active learning more by what it is not (passive watching and listening), but for a more formal definition, The Greenwood Dictionary of Education defines active learning as:

“The process of having students engage in some activity that forces them to reflect upon ideas and how they are using those ideas. Requiring students to regularly assess their own degree of understanding and skill at handling concepts or problems in a particular discipline. The attainment of knowledge by participating or contributing. The process of keeping students mentally, and often physically, active in their learning through activities that involve them in gathering information, thinking and problem solving.” (as quoted by Weimer, 2011)

 

Why is Active Learning Important?  

Instructors who adopt active learning techniques can have a significant positive impact on student learning, motivation, retention, and success.  Students are more likely to learn more in a course, more likely to pass a course, more likely to continue on in a major and succeed in later courses, and more likely to graduate.  A 2012 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology found that:

“Studies have shown that classroom approaches that engage students as active participants improve retention of information and critical thinking skills and can significantly increase STEM-major interest and perseverance, compared with conventional lecturing. In one study, for example, students in traditional lecture courses were twice as likely to leave engineering and three times as likely to drop out of college entirely compared with students taught using active learning techniques. In another study, students in a physics class that used active learning methods learned twice as much as those taught in a traditional class, as measured by test results.” (PCAST, 2012)

Some more sources of evidence for active learning, as well as examples of active learning, are listed below.

Does Active Learning Really Work?  What is the Evidence?

What are Examples of Active Learning Strategies?
How Do I Implement Active Learning in the Classroom?

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