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Upgrade to Active Learning

Posted by Stephen Hager

We’re pleased to introduce guest blogger, Aditya Singhal, co-founder of Transtutors.com, and share with you his active learning techniques to supplement traditional classroom learning. Can you find examples of how a teacher might engage students’ sensory and cognitive strengths using these techniques?

Some learn best while following instructions, some learn best while reading and others learn while doing.  Active learning is anything that involves students doing things and thinking about what they are doing. Anything that engages the student in an experiential activity-based lesson can be classified as active learning. In this method, the responsibility of learning lies with the student. Studies show that active learning strategies are much better recalled, enjoyed and understood as compared to passive learning or the lecture format.

Active learning is based on the simple principle that people generally remember 90% of what they do as compared to 20% of what they hear and only 10% of what they read. Students absorb new knowledge through organizing information and manipulating material rather than just reading, listening and note-taking. Active learning increases student interest, motivation and attendance. The best part is that the student learns to take learning into their hands. They learn how to monitor their own learning and invest in class to succeed.

Active learning can be used in a number of cases to supplement traditional teaching methods. Create opportunities to involve students in the process of learning. Here are a few useful examples:

  1. Peer Teaching: Assign a topic to students, ask them to research, gather information and prepare a presentation. The presentation can be done in groups, pairs or individually. Students feel more comfortable and open interacting with their peers.
  2. Field Visit: This is a chance for students to learn outside the classroom. The activity can be planned as an incentive and an opportunity to further their learning. Take for example a visit to a neighboring dam to learn about the importance of water for living and agriculture. Allow time for pre-visit research and class discussions. During the visit, groups of students can experience various elements of what goes into building a dam, measuring the width of the dam, drawing the kinds of vegetation surrounding the dam, participating in a talk by one of the government engineers. After the visit, groups can exchange information through presentations or reports.
  3. Flipped Classroom: In the traditional model, teachers give lectures in the classroom, students take notes, teachers assign homework, students complete assignments and are graded accordingly. In the flipped classroom, lectures are delivered online at their own pace, communicating with peers and teachers via online discussions and the classroom is used as a place for activity and engagement-based learning. This method gives students the chance to absorb information in a relaxed environment, taking the time they need to grasp new concepts and in the classroom it gives them the opportunity learn through activity. The classroom becomes a safe learning environment where questions are encouraged and doubts are cleared. Teachers can be more hands-on with concepts that students don’t understand and support students in solving problems in class.
  4. Minute Paper: Even in a regular lecture based class, teachers can make an effort to include active learning practices. One of the techniques found to be exceptionally rewarding is the one minute pause. In this method, the lecture is paused just for a minute and students are asked to hand in a short assignment on what they have just learnt. Introducing a writing activity in the middle of the listening activity not only provides a much-needed change of pace, but also makes sure the students attention span is maximized.
  5. Think-Pair-Share: Have students first work on a problem individually and then compare answers with their partners and present their findings to the class. This technique incorporates peer learning and group work.
  6. Brainstorming: Pose a problem and ask for solutions from the class. Provide enough time for teams to collate possible solutions and discuss the best possible outcomes. Interactive learning techniques can help boost the confidence of the students and encourage teamwork.
  7. Pass the problem: Add a twist to the brainstorming sessions by introducing a folder in which one group’s solution is collected and passed on to the next group for the next level of problem-solving. This way the more complex the question, the more participative the solution becomes.
  8. Icebreaker Review: Best suited to the first class of the term, this activity serves as an introductory crash course. Write a set of 10-20 questions pertaining to topics you would expect the students to know about from the previous term. Each student gets a card with one question and its answer. The task is to find the answer to all the questions. Students exchange information and review answers together until all the required information is with each of them.
  9. The Fish Bowl: A simple and easy-to-implement technique to encourage students to ask questions without hesitation. At the end of the class, each student writes down his/her question and places it in the fishbowl/cardboard box/hat. The most asked question can be the topic for discussion in the next class.
  10. Student Debate: An interactive method to provoke research and discussion. Students have to present their point of view with relevant supporting arguments. This technique not only encourages verbal presentation but also shows both sides of the story when it comes to challenging topics.

Active Learning Techniques are not only beneficial to the students but also the teacher. Active participation from the students ensures that concepts are understood not only in their rudimentary form but also in their application in problem-solving. Methods like peer teaching and the flipped classroom save precious time on both sides of the classroom.

 

AUTHORSHIP: Aditya Singhal is the co-founder of Transtutors.com (www.transtutors.com), a leading online tutoring help for college students. Having graduated from prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), he worked briefly with American Consulting firm, Kurt Salmon Associates before taking the entrepreneurial route. Outside the work ambit, Aditya has a personal interest in helping students in their career aspiration and skill development. He is also actively involved in giving back to the society by contributing a part of the revenue towards education of poor students in India. 

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