Classroom teaching

Active learning is "a method of learning in which students are actively or experientially involved in the learning process and where there are different levels of active learning, depending on student involvement."[1] Bonwell & Eison (1991) states that "students participate [in active learning] when they are doing something besides passively listening." According to Hanson and Moser (2003) using active teaching techniques in the classroom can create better academic outcomes for students. Scheyvens, Griffin, Jocoy, Liu, & Bradford (2008) further noted that "by utilizing learning strategies that can include small-group work, role-play and simulations, data collection and analysis, active learning is purported to increase student interest and motivation and to build students ‘critical thinking, problem-solving and social skills". In a report from the Association for the Study of Higher Education, authors discuss a variety of methodologies for promoting active learning. They cite literature that indicates students must do more than just listen in order to learn. They must read, write, discuss, and be engaged in solving problems. This process relates to the three learning domains referred to as knowledge, skills and attitudes (KSA). This taxonomy of learning behaviors can be thought of as "the goals of the learning process."[2] In particular, students must engage in such higher-order thinking tasks as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.[3]

Nature of active learning

There are a wide range of alternatives for the term active learning and specific strategies, such as: learning through play, technology-based learning, activity-based learning, group work, project method, etc. The common factors in these are some significant qualities and characteristics of active learning. Active learning is the opposite of passive learning; it is learner-centered, not teacher-centered, and requires more than just listening; the active participation of each and every student is a necessary aspect in active learning. Students must be doing things and simultaneously think about the work done and the purpose behind it so that they can enhance their higher order thinking capabilities.

Many research studies[by whom?][4] have proven that active learning as a strategy has promoted achievement levels and some others[who?] say that content mastery is possible through active learning strategies.[5][6] However, some students as well as teachers find it difficult to adapt to the new learning technique.[7]

There are intensive uses of scientific and quantitative literacy across the curriculum, and technology-based learning is also in high demand in concern with active learning.[8]

Barnes (1989)[9][10] suggested principles of active learning:

  1. Purposive: the relevance of the task to the students' concerns.
  2. Reflective: students' reflection on the meaning of what is learned.
  3. Negotiated: negotiation of goals and methods of learning between students and teachers.
  4. Critical: students appreciate different ways and means of learning the content.
  5. Complex: students compare learning tasks with complexities existing in real life and making reflective analysis.
  6. Situation-driven: the need of the situation is considered in order to establish learning tasks.
  7. Engaged: real life tasks are reflected in the activities conducted for learning.

Active learning requires appropriate learning environments through the implementation of correct strategy. Characteristics of learning environment are:[11][12]

  1. Aligned with constructivist strategies and evolved from traditional philosophies.
  2. Promoting research based learning through investigation and contains authentic scholarly content.
  3. Encouraging leadership skills of the students through self-development activities.
  4. Creating atmosphere suitable for collaborative learning for building knowledgeable learning communities.
  5. Cultivating a dynamic environment through interdisciplinary learning and generating high-profile activities for a better learning experience.
  6. Integration of prior with new knowledge to incur a rich structure of knowledge among the students.
  7. Task-based performance enhancement by giving the students a realistic practical sense of the subject matter learnt in the classroom.

Teacher's characteristics in active learning

A study by Jerome I. Rotgans and Henk G. Schmidt showed a correlation between three teachers' characteristics and students' situational interest in an active learning classroom.

Situational interest is defined as "focused attention and an affective reaction that is triggered in the moment by environmental stimuli, which may or may not last over time" according to Hidi and Renninger.

students' situational interest is inspired by three teacher traits as represented in the study. The three traits are social congruence, subject-matter expertise, and cognitive congruence:

  1. When a teacher is socially congruent which means that he/she has a harmonious interaction with the student, the positive relationship allows students to express their opinions and participate without fear of making mistakes. Also, students will ask questions when the topic is not clear; as a result, they become more interested in the classroom.[13]
  2. Subject-matter expertise: When a teacher is an expert and has a broad knowledge of the subject being taught, students are expected to work harder and put more effort into their work. In contrast, If a teacher is less knowledgeable, students might lose interest in learning. Moreover, expert teachers are more helpful to their students in an effective way. This trait will positively impact student's success during the active learning process.[13]
  3. Cognitive congruence: This happens when a teacher can simplify hard concepts and use simple terms, so students can easily understand the topic. The teacher guides the students in the learning process by asking questions and allowing students to share their thoughts without interruption. As a result, students will trust their ability to learn on their own and will develop an organized way of thinking about a topic. Therefore, they will be more engaged in an active learning classroom.[13]

Ensuring that all students are actively learning

Total participation offers two major techniques for teachers to apply in their classrooms. These techniques motivate students and allow them to understand the learning materials deeply. The first helpful tool is asking students higher-order questions instead of lower-order questions. According to Bloom's Cognitive Taxonomy, a higher-order question will allow students to go beyond their basic knowledge, opening the door for their thinking to dive into new topics, and make connections related to real life. When students make these connections and analyze the topic that needs to be learned, the topic will become unforgettable. In contrast, lower-order questions are straightforward questions based on memorized facts or predictable conclusions. These types of questions may engage all students to participate but will not allow students to expand their thinking. They will likely forget the concept later because it lacks connections to real life, and their thinking didn't go through deep analysis. The second tool is called "The Ripple." This technique will ensure that every student will participate and come up with an answer regarding a higher-order question because it gives a student the time needed to think independently and generate ideas. The drawback of the traditional teaching method is that it only allows some students to respond to the prompt, while others may need extra time to develop ideas. "The Ripple" will motivate students through different stages. First, the students think independently, then they expand their ideas with peers, and finally, this discussion will expand to the whole class.[14]

Constructivist framework

Active learning coordinates with the principles of constructivism which are, cognitive, meta-cognitive, evolving and effective in nature. Studies have shown that immediate results in construction of knowledge is not possible through active learning as the child first goes through the process of knowledge construction, knowledge recording and then knowledge absorption. This process of knowledge construction is dependent on previous knowledge of the learner where the learner is self-aware of the process of cognition and can control and regulate it by themselves.[15] There are several aspects of learning and some of them are:

  1. Learning through meaningful reception, influenced by David Ausubel, who emphasizes the previous knowledge the learner possesses and considers it a key factor in learning.
  2. Learning through discovery, influenced by Jerome Bruner, where students learn through discovery of ideas with the help of situations provided by the teacher.
  3. Conceptual change: misconceptions takes place as students discover knowledge without any guidance; teachers provide knowledge keeping in mind the common misconceptions about the content and keep an evaluatory check on the knowledge constructed by the students.
  4. Constructivism, influenced by researchers such as Lev Vygotsky, suggests collaborative group work within the framework of cognitive strategies like questioning, clarifying, predicting and summarizing.[16]

Science of active learning

Active learning can be used effectively for teaching comprehension and memory.[17] The reason it is efficient is that it draws on underlying characteristics of how the brain operates during learning. These characteristics have been documented by thousands of empirical studies (e.g., Smith & Kosslyn, 2011) and have been organized into a set of principles. Each of these principles can be drawn on by various active learning exercises. They also offer a framework for designing activities that will promote learning; when used systematically, Stephen Kosslyn (2017) notes these principles enable students to "learn effectively—sometimes without even trying to learn".[18]

The principles of learning

One way to organize the empirical literature on learning and memory specifies 16 distinct principles, which fall under two umbrella "maxims". The first maxim, "Think it Through", includes principles related to paying close attention and thinking deeply about new information. The second, "Make and Use Associations", focuses on techniques for organizing, storing, and retrieving information.

The principles can be summarized as follows.[18]

Maxim I: Think it through

Maxim II: Make and use associations

Active learning typically draws on combinations of these principles. For example, a well-run debate will draw on virtually all, with the exceptions of dual coding, interleaving, and spaced practice. In contrast, passively listening to a lecture rarely draws on any.

Active learning exercises

See also: Cooperative learning § Techniques

Bonwell and Eison (1991) suggested learners work collaboratively, discuss materials while role-playing, debate, engage in case study, take part in cooperative learning, or produce short written exercises, etc. The argument is "when should active learning exercises be used during instruction?". Numerous studies have shown that introducing active learning activities (such as simulations, games, contrasting cases, labs,..) before, rather than after lectures or readings, results in deeper learning, understanding, and transfer.[20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27] The degree of instructor guidance students need while being "active" may vary according to the task and its place in a teaching unit.

In an active learning environment learners are immersed in experiences within which they engage in meaning-making inquiry, action, imagination, invention, interaction, hypothesizing and personal reflection (Cranton 2012).

Examples of "active learning" activities include

Effective strategies in large classes

Transformational Active Learning Experience (TALE) could be challenging in large classes where students may exceed 200, typically found in universities.

Examples of some challenges in large classes:

Despite the challenges, obvious benefits can be seen; in a large class, many ideas could be generated with multiple opinions. The diverse population could expand and create strong connections and relationships between classmates.[33]

1- Using software for students' participation without revealing their identities could be a solution to students' discomfort with representing their thoughts in front of a large population.

2-What is called the "one minute paper" could be a useful strategy for students to respond. When the teacher asks a question related to a topic that has been taught, students will write their answers individually within 60 seconds.

3- "Think-pair-share" is a method that has been used to walk students through three ways of learning. First, every student will come up with an answer regarding a question presented by the instructor. Then, Each student will share the answer with another peer for analysis and deeper thinking. Lastly, the entire class will discuss their responses together.[33]

Elements of High-Impact Practices

George D. Kuh identified High-Impact practices (HIPs) as " a Specific set of practices that tended to lead to meaningful experiences for students." Kuh and his coworkers identified several elements that were important and could be applied in a wide range of learning opportunities.[33]

  1. Breaking down the skills that need to be taught, one step at a time, is more beneficial than teaching a large amount of knowledge all at the same time. This concept was developed based on the Zone of Proximal Development theory by Lev Vygotsky (1978). In practice, students start a lesson with higher expectations and in a positive class environment. As a result, all students will picture their goals as achievable, leading them to trust their abilities and be encouraged to participate actively in their learning process. When lower-level students start to face some challenges, the teacher's role becomes crucial to provide new resources and techniques to increase students' performance.
  2. Reaching effective learning will be a common result of "spaced learning". This idea was first introduced by Hermann Ebbinghaus (1913) in his book: Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. He identified spaced learning as the process of learning new information over a long period in multiple ways using different activities.
  3. High-quality learning could be achievable when students have a positive relationship with their classmates and teachers. Students are more likely to get motivated and reach their goals when connecting with teachers and classmates who are supportive and helpful.
  4. Having diverse backgrounds in a class allows students to be exposed to different opinions and generate new ideas when connecting with peers from different identities.[33]

Use of technology

See also: Technology-enhanced active learning

The use of multimedia and technology tools helps enhance the atmosphere of the classroom, thus enhancing the active learning experience. In this way, each student actively engages in the learning process. Teachers can use movies, videos, games, and other fun activities to enhance the effectiveness of the active learning process. The use of technology also stimulates the "real-world" idea of active learning as it mimics the use of technology outside of the classroom. Incorporating technology combined with active learning have been researched and found a relationship between the use and increased positive behavior, an increase in effective learning, "motivation" as well as a connecting between students and the outside world.[34] The theoretical foundations of this learning process are:

  1. Flow: Flow is a concept to enhance the focus level of the student as each and every individual becomes aware and completely involved in the learning atmosphere. In accordance with one's own capability and potential, through self-awareness, students perform the task at hand. The first methodology to measure flow was Csikszentmihalyi's Experience Sampling.
  2. Learning styles: Acquiring knowledge through one's own technique is called learning style. Learning occurs in accordance with potential as every child is different and has particular potential in various areas. It caters to all kinds of learners: visual, kinesthetic, cognitive and affective. [dubious ]
  3. Locus of control: Ones with high internal locus of control believe that every situation or event is attributable to their resources and behavior. Ones with high external locus of control believe that nothing is under their control.
  4. Intrinsic motivation: Intrinsic motivation is a factor that deals with self-perception concerning the task at hand. Interest, attitude, and results depend on the self-perception of the given activity.[35]

Research evidence

Shimer College Home Economics cooking 1942

Numerous studies have shown evidence to support active learning, given adequate prior instruction.

A meta-analysis of 225 studies comparing traditional lecture to active learning in university math, science, and engineering courses found that active learning reduces failure rates from 32% to 21%, and increases student performance on course assessments and concept inventories by 0.47 standard deviations. Because the findings were so robust with regard to study methodology, extent of controls, and subject matter, the National Academy of Sciences publication suggests that it might be unethical to continue to use traditional lecture approach as a control group in such studies. The largest positive effects were seen in class sizes under 50 students and among students under-represented in STEM fields.[17]

Richard Hake (1998) reviewed data from over 6000 physics students in 62 introductory physics courses and found that students in classes that utilized active learning and interactive engagement techniques improved 25 percent points, achieving an average gain of 48% on a standard test of physics conceptual knowledge, the Force Concept Inventory, compared to a gain of 23% for students in traditional, lecture-based courses.[36]

Similarly, Hoellwarth & Moelter (2011)[37] showed that when instructors switched their physics classes from traditional instruction to active learning, student learning improved 38 percent points, from around 12% to over 50%, as measured by the Force Concept Inventory, which has become the standard measure of student learning in physics courses.

Example of problem-/project-based learning versus reading cover to cover. The problem-/project-based learner may memorize a smaller amount of total information due to actively spending time searching for the optimal information across various sources, but will likely learn more useful items for real-world scenarios, and will likely be better at knowing where to find information when needed, including technology use.[38]

In "Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research", Prince (2004) found that "there is broad but uneven support for the core elements of active, collaborative, cooperative and problem-based learning" in engineering education.[39]

Michael (2006),[40] in reviewing the applicability of active learning to physiology education, found a "growing body of research within specific scientific teaching communities that supports and validates the new approaches to teaching that have been adopted".

In a 2012 report titled "Engage to Excel",[41] the United States President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology described how improved teaching methods, including engaging students in active learning, will increase student retention and improve performance in STEM courses. One study described in the report found that 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 cited 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.

Active learning has been implemented in large lectures and it has been shown that both domestic and International students perceive a wide array of benefits. In a recent study, broad improvements were shown in student engagement and understanding of unit material among international students.[42]

Active learning approaches have also been shown to reduce the contact between students and faculty by two thirds, while maintaining learning outcomes that were at least as good, and in one case, significantly better, compared to those achieved in traditional classrooms. Additionally, students' perceptions of their learning were improved and active learning classrooms were demonstrated to lead to a more efficient use of physical space.[43]

A 2019 study by Deslauriers et al. claimed that students have a biased perception of active learning and they feel they learn better with traditional teaching methods than active learning activities. It can be corrected by early preparation and continuous persuasion that the students are benefiting from active instruction.[44]

In a different study conducted by Wallace et al. (2021), they came to the conclusion that in a comparison between students being taught by an active-learning instructor vs. a traditional learning instructor, students who engaged in active-learning outperformed their counterparts in exam environments.[45] In this setting, the instructor focused on active-learning was a first-time instructor, and the individual who was teaching the traditional style of learning was a long-time instructor. The researchers acknowledged the limitations of this study in that individuals may have done better because of depth in specific sections of the class, so the researchers removed questions that could be favoring one section more than the other out of this analysis.

See also

References

Citations

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Works cited

Further references