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Active Learning

Active learning is a broad term but basically it places the responsibility of learning on the actual student or learner. This became a common education theory and learning style in the 1980′s and 1990′s. There were arguments made about whether or not this learning included “practice” (promoting cognitive learning). Some said that it was crucial for students to actively engage in practice of the curriculum being taught in order to fully understand. Others ask if you can’t learn without practicing.

Bonwell and Eison were the original founders of the active learning concept. They claim that learning is done best when done in pairs. They believe that things like role playing, debating and other forms of cooperative learning are vital. There are those that think that these learning styles are best used after new information is given to a student and not as a way to introduce a new concept.
Active learning can consist of the following:
  1. Class discussion – Instructors can guide this forum of learning. The great thing about this type of activity is that with today’s technology you can do this online or in a classroom environment.
  2. Think-pair-share – Students are presented with information and then given time to think about the new information. Later they are paired or put in a group discussion where they can share thoughts and ideas. When this it done the instructor can listen in and see if the students have assimilated the information correctly. If not, the instructor can clear up any misconceptions.
  3. Short written exercise – This can be as little as a paper that takes just a minute to write. This is a great way for teachers to gather whether or not each individual has gotten the correct concept or grasped the knowledge.
Proponents of active learning have concerns about “practicing” when learning. The idea of problem solving has a negative side to it that can make things hard on learners.