Active learning is an important technique in the modern classroom, especially with the various benefits and opportunities it brings. Active learning enables students to discover their own learning style. It helps them to shape their individual character.
As educators ourselves, we find that is it important to introduce active learning to students at a young age. Children are fast learners and can adapt quickly. When we expose them to active learning, the habits tend to stick and follow them into adulthood.
Students are generally curious and inquisitive. They are always keen on learning new things and exploring the world around them. Compared to other age groups, they tend to experiment more. But when they fail, their self-confidence might take a hit. This would eventually happen at some point. Unfortunately, failure is part and parcel of life.
That is where the importance of active learning comes in. Active learning encourages students to find ways to strengthen their resilience. Active learning help students to become more determined when solving problems. Teachers get students to set their own goals and work towards them. Students would understand that it is perfectly okay to fail. By learning from their past mistakes, they can work harder and strive to perform better next time.
What is active learning all about?
Active learning refers to modern learning techniques that directly involve the students themselves. Here are some examples which you may have come across:
- Brainstorming in a group
- Working on case studies
- Getting students to teach one another
- Using real-world data in problem-solving
- Constructing mind maps
- Flipping the classroom around
Through these activities, students can determine how they learn, while teachers decide on what the students get to learn. This ensures that students gain the necessary skills while still maintaining the desired learning outcomes. Students would have enough knowledge to do their homework and sit for their tests. At the same time, they would get to put those skills into practice in many other aspects of their lives.
Doing different activities and actively thinking of what you are doing is one of the goals of active learning. It encourages you to talk about what you are learning, and help you to relate them to your daily encounters.
Why is active learning important?
Active learning doesn’t just help students to meet the learning objectives. It also helps them build useful skills in life. For example, students get the chance to participate actively and to voice their opinions in a thoughtful manner. To a certain extent, they are responsible for how the lesson turns out. As a result, they get a greater sense of involvement in their own learning.
Another reason why active learning is important is that students can improve their self-awareness. And this can make their study sessions more meaningful, productive and fun. After all, active learning is flexible in terms of learning environment. Activities can take place both inside and outside of the classroom.
Active learning also makes students feel that going to school is an enjoyable experience. A new adventure would be waiting for them every time they step into class. Students would feel more excited and start looking forward to the next lesson. They would also be more motivated to freely apply the knowledge which they would be acquiring in class.
Apart from these, active learning is important in many other ways. In this article, we will share a few more reasons on why active learning is important for students.
Active learning improves communication and cognitive functions
The quality and quantity of communication with the teacher and among the students increase greatly with active participation. Not just in the verbal form, but also in various non-verbal ways.
For instance, you would pay more attention to your facial expression, hand movements and body posture. You would also learn to listen more intently to what others are saying. When writing on a whiteboard or flipchart, students practise their visual and written communication skills as they pen down their ideas. Students learn how to express themselves clearly.
Scientific studies have also shown that active learning triggers the sensory, cognitive, emotional and social aspects of the brain. Multiple neural pathways working together at the same time would enhance the quality of our learning.
In-class interactions tend to be more meaningful, as students would receive frequent and immediate feedback from the teacher. That’s why teachers would always encourage students to speak up and participate more actively in class.
Students should use it to their advantage and ask questions actively. For all you know, other students may also have the same burning questions. In the long run, students learn how to craft better questions to get the answers they are looking for.
With so many active learning techniques available, the various activities can be rotated throughout the week. This covers the different forms of communication, and works out the different parts of their brain.
Active learning motivates students to stretch their abilities
In an active learning classroom, students have to read critically, think creatively, and collaborate closely with their classmates. Students are presented with problems that they must solve by themselves or together with other learners.
Most of the time, unless it is a revision class, students get to work on fresh problems. Apart from keeping things interesting, introducing new content regularly can help students to stretch their thinking further. Students would have to apply what they have learnt or come up with creative ways to solve the problem.
Teachers should encourage students to go beyond what they think they can do. This helps students prepare for unforeseen situations which they may face, especially those with no definite solution. Active learning equips students with critical thinking and problem-solving skills which they would need in future. Unique encounters and fresh experiences help students to push their boundaries further.
Active learning techniques are designed to help students stretch their abilities when they engage in these activities. These activities also encourage students to step out of their comfort zone and explore new things. Knowing how to get information is more important than what you know today. In the end, students get to reflect on their journey of working towards their learning goals.
Active learning is important for achieving learning objectives
Learning objectives refer to the collective knowledge or skills which students should achieve by the end of the lesson. At the end of the day, learning objectives have to be met as they are often a prerequisite for topics at a higher level. Active learning can help students to build a solid foundation as they participate and engage in the activities.
Teachers know that it is not easy to get the attention of students. They have to make sure that their lessons are interactive and engaging. On the other hand, students want to know what they are getting in exchange for their attention.
An important step is to set out clear learning objectives right from the start. By specifying what students can get out of the lesson, learning objectives define a common goal for everyone. When choosing an activity, teachers should briefly explain how the activity relates to the learning objectives.
Some teachers are more flexible when it comes to allowing their students to make decisions. For example, students get to pick from a list of activities or propose an alternative. Allowing students to choose makes them feel like they are in control. Students would also get better insights on how the various activities contribute to the overall learning objectives.
If you have the chance to voice your opinion, why not choose the activities that you and your friends would enjoy the most? It is definitely way easier to be more engaged if you are doing the things you like to do.
Active learning helps you become a more committed learner
Recently, one of our friends wanted to improve the way she played the guitar. In particular, she wanted to have smoother finger movements between chords. Being interested was one thing, but finding time to work on it is another thing. Knowing the finger placements for various chords was not enough. She started spending more time and effort on the guitar, practising the way she transitioned from one chord to the next.
Students can take a similar approach for learning. First, you need to have a strong interest in what you are about to learn. Next, you set yourself a goal to work towards. You identify your learning objectives and decide on how you want to learn. This is an important step for active learning.
Finally, you need to set aside the time and effort to practise. Concentrate on what you are doing. While you can have the knowledge on paper, becoming a better learner requires commitment and determination. By putting your knowledge into action, you would eventually gain a deeper understanding of things.
When you engage in active learning, you develop your self-confidence and become less afraid of making mistakes. You become a more inquisitive person. You also take greater ownership of your learning. In other words, it is more likely for you to complete what you have started on.
Students can also maintain their focus when they are truly engaged in the activity. Active learning promotes better recall. It also helps students to achieve a stronger grasp of challenging concepts. This can open up opportunities for healthy discussions. These fruitful debates with your classmates can even make you think differently.
Active learning can shape your critical thinking and global perspectives
Critical thinking is a higher-order skill that involves analysing, evaluating and creating. It is an important skill for academic subjects such as mathematics and science, and even in the humanities. You can also apply your critical thinking skills at home. For instance, creating useful home innovations or solving daily life problems.
In an active learning environment, teachers provide information in various ways. Students piece them together by participating in activities. By breaking down the information into bite-sized chunks, students would be able to appreciate the finer details.
At the end of the activity, teachers would often give feedback. Students would then connect the information which they have just learnt with their prior knowledge and past experiences. It is also important for students to reorganise their thoughts from time to time.
When brainstorming on your own or as a group, you are developing your critical mind. Students who engage in active learning would eventually become more critical thinkers.
Active learning caters to all learning styles. This reinforces the importance of diversity in the classroom. Students would realise that there are classmates who can perform better. Likewise, there may be others who are struggling with their work. In the end, everyone who participates actively has an equal chance of attaining the same learning outcomes.
Students in an active classroom must be open to new ideas and perspectives. They must keep an open mind. They must be willing to learn. Help one another out so that everyone improves together. But students should not be excessively focused on the learning objectives.
Grades alone are not enough to tell you how much you have improved. Instead, your improvement is more evident in the way you apply what you have learnt. Make use of your everyday opportunities to hone the skills you acquire as you learn.
Our Tips for Active Learning
Here are some tips we have for active learning:
- Active learning should always take place beyond the classroom. Students have a limited amount of time to learn everything in school. They should identify possible opportunities to adopt these learning strategies elsewhere.
- Don’t take notes the old-fashioned way by writing down whatever your teacher says, word for word. An active learner would only write down the relevant information and rewrite what they have learnt. Concept maps, diagrams or charts can be useful for visual learners.
- Practice being your own teacher by explaining concepts in your own words. You can do this by yourself or in a small group. You would become more familiar with the content, and also start to see potential mistakes or gain new perspectives.
- Give yourself a pop quiz regularly to keep your mind sharp. By recalling information often, you can refresh your memory and reinforce your learning. These short bursts of intensive answering also help you to avoid procrastination.
- When learning on your own, avoid the temptation to switch back to passive learning methods. Don’t simply memorise concepts without understanding them. Don’t just accept any information you read, but spend some time to think deeply about it.
- Active learning allows you to discover your individual learning style. Choose the techniques that are most suitable for you, as everyone has their own unique way of learning. You know yourself best, and what can help you the most. Just be aware that your learning styles may change as you grow, and you’ll need to adapt along the way.
We hope that these tips can help you to get started. As aspiring active learners, share your tips with others by leaving a comment below.
The Importance of Self-Evaluation
An important component of active learning is self-evaluation, during which you reflect on your learning process. At the end of each activity, spend some time to analyse what you have learnt. It also makes you more aware of your individual strengths and weaknesses. Keep your thoughts in a journal to see how you have grown over the months. The results can be surprising!
As you reflect and self-evaluate, you become more aware of your learning patterns. You get a better idea of what works for you, and what doesn’t. You can make changes along the way to improve yourself. Self-evaluation could even motivate you to work harder, and inspire you to enrich yourself further. Make it a part of your daily routine.
Active learning requires a lot of effort and commitment. It can take a long time before you start to see results. You may face some initial doubt as you try out this new way of learning. You are no longer listening to your teacher passively. Instead, you need to actively participate in class as you learn.
Some students may need slightly more time to adapt to an active learning environment. Be patient, and do not even think about giving up. When you finally benefit from this modern form of learning, those efforts were just tiny sacrifices. It would be well worth the effort.
To recap, here are the reasons why active learning is important:
- Active learning improves communication and cognitive functions
- Active learning motivates students to stretch their abilities
- Active learning is important for achieving learning objectives
- Active learning helps you become a more committed learner
- Active learning can shape your critical thinking and global perspectives
The importance of active learning cannot be further emphasised. Countries around the globe have been revamping their education system to expose their students to active learning from young. The benefits of active learning to students are clear. We should keep ourselves current with the latest developments in education.
What is the difference between active learning and learning by doing? Active learning allows students to be involved in the learning process. Learning by doing allows students to learn by interacting with and adapting to their environment with minimal guidance. Both strategies are student-centred and involve the learners directly.
Does active learning take up a lot of time? Not quite. Active learning helps students to learn faster as they take greater ownership of their learning. By planning for an interactive lesson, students would read up ahead on their own time. In a passive learning classroom, teachers have to repeat the same content across multiple sessions. Without enough variety, students would get bored and lose interest in their learning.