What is Active Learning?

Active learning is any learning activity in which the student participates or interacts with the learning process, as opposed to passively taking in the information.

Active learning is the approach to instruction in which all students are asked to engage in the learning process. Active learning stands in contrast to “traditional” modes of instruction in which students are passive recipients of knowledge from an expert.

Active learning can take many forms and be executed in any discipline. Commonly, students will engage in activities centered around asking and answering questions, sharing different points of views, problem solving, and summarizing conclusions.

‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’

When given the opportunity to actively engage with the information they’re learning, students perform better. It nurtures the brain, giving it an extended opportunity to connect new and old information, correct previous misconceptions, and reconsider existing thoughts or opinions.

–Samuel Butler

In Quoana we have think that:


Research into why active learning works

According to a study into learning-centered approaches to education, students learn more when they participate in the process of learning. Active learning is discussion, practice, review, or application. Problem solving. Exploring new concepts in groups. Working out a math problem on a piece of paper.

Active learning encourages your brain to activate cognitive and sensory networks, which helps process and store new information. Claire Hoogendoorn, New York City College of Technology wrote a good introductory article on the neuroscience of active learning. She summarized several studies, writing, “…learning is enhanced when multiple neural pathways are activated at the same time. In plain terms, the more we can activate students’ brains in different ways, the more they learn. This means that engaging as many sensory, cognitive, emotional, and social processes in students will increase their learning potential.”

What’s more, Cornell University found that research suggests learner attention starts to wane every 10–20 minutes during lectures — which means instructors are continuously fighting to keep attention. Incorporating regular, varied active learning moments is a great solution to recapture an audience.

Unblurring the lines

The line between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ learning can be blurry. Isn’t a student taking notes during a lecture actively engaged in a class, especially when compared to their peers sleeping or texting in the back of the room? Perhaps, at some point in time, active note-taking was the best we could hope for from our students.

A 1991 study on active learning called “Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom”, the researchers (citing even earlier research) talked about the need to upgrade how we think about engaging our learners:

…many faculty assert that all learning is inherently active and that students are therefore actively involved while listening to formal presentations in the classroom. Analysis of the research literature (Chickering and Camson 1987), however, suggests that students must do more than just listen: They must read, write, discuss, or be engaged in solving problems. Most important, to be actively involved, students must engage in such higher-order thinking tasks as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. (Bonwell and Eison 1991)

The problem we see today is that students furiously typing or scribbling notes are more focused on getting every word down, rather than evaluating, understanding, and analyzing what it is they are meant to be learning. They have engaged with the professor, but not the material being relayed — which is the most important part.

In a world with a job market increasingly focused on independent critical thinking abilities, we must teach our learners how to go deeper and engage those higher-order thinking tasks. Reconsidering the degree and form by which students are actively participating matters if we want to truly impact long-term outcomes and futures.

Leaving a history of didactic instruction in the past

Didactic instruction — an authoritative, lecture-heavy approach to teaching in which the learner is fairly passive — turns the teacher into a dispenser of knowledge and the student into a mostly idle recipient. Students can still ask questions of the teacher to gain/broaden understanding, but although it doesn’t have to be an ‘all-one-way’ approach, it is generally fairly one-sided.

An image of an old lecture hall

Didactic teaching and lecture can be dated back to the 14th century medieval times, when instructors read to students while they took notes. At the time, information wasn’t easily accessible nor available, so this method solved for the problem of the age; large lectures halls were the best available method for sharing and spreading knowledge. “Education” for students became “take copious notes and memorize as much information as possible”.

In the Age of Information, we can thankfully move forward and away from lecture-only models.

Lectures alone are too often a useless expenditure of force. The lecturer pumps laboriously into sieves. The water may be wholesome; but it runs through. A mind must work to grow. (Charles Wiliam Elliot 1869)

Passive learning vs. Active learning

Teaching that remains a one-way transfer of information from instructor to student is now a widely-criticized pedagogical model, accepted as being a poor way to motivate students to learn. But those models can be updated:

  1. Passive learning is the lecture on deadly diseases, while active learning is the discussion on which diseases students have heard about and in what context.
  2. Passive learning is providing the image of a cell which is already annotated, while active learning is providing the unlabeled image of a cell for students to explore and annotate themselves.
  3. Passive learning is the video watched in a dark classroom without thinking prompts or discussion, while active learning is the simulation which reacts to student interaction or pauses to ask formative questions.

Of course, there are times when passive learning is useful, e.g. scaffolding learners towards expertise more efficiently. But teaching without providing an opportunity to ask questions and discuss is, as attributed to Elliot above, like pumping information into a sieve; ultimately, learners will retain grains of new information, but most will be lost.

The IIEC Trainer Leading Active Learning

The IIEC Trainer course focuses on active learning and I think it is the best approach since what we need today is the knowledge and skills that can help us apply what we learn in our life and career.

How Education is Changing and the Way We Learn and Teach Are Being Disrupted

Education is being disrupted and even Elon Musk says that the degree is irrelevant.

“ If you don’t have a college degree, it won’t hold you back from working for Tesla, Elon Musk tweeted on Sunday.

Musk is using Twitter to recruit for Tesla’s artificial intelligence team.

“Join AI at Tesla!” Musk tweeted Sunday. The artificial intelligence team “reports directly to me [and] we meet/email/text almost every day.”

What’s more, to work in Tesla’s artificial intelligence department does not require a specific degree.

A PhD is definitely not required,”Tesla boss Elon Musk said on Twitter on Feb. 2. I “don’t care if you even graduated high school,” Musk said.

Instead, Musk is looking for those with a “deep understanding” of artificial intelligence. And while, ”[e]ducational background is irrelevant,” all candidates “must pass hardcore coding
test,” Musk said.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/03/elon-musk-is-recruiting-for-tesla-education-isirrelevant.html

On social media I’ve heard from a friend that now people want to learn from others who know a bit more then they know and they are not seeking experts. Even Tony Robbins and Dean
Graziosi are saying this on Youtube when they promote their Knowledge Business Blueprint Training (KBB) program where people can teach what they are interested in and those who
do not know a special topic can act as Promoters or even Interviewers. That way everybody learns and after a while those that could not master a certain subject become very good at it
and can then also start teaching.

Why Is Active Learning Important

In today’s world it is becoming a must to be able to make fast decisions, have critical thinking, emotional intelligence, problem-solving skills, etc. We have less time than before so we need
to prioritize our time, be able to remember what we learn and apply it, and learn at a continuous basis to keep up with technologies, trends, and requirements. For this, it is essential like the IIEC Trainer course explains, to have students have an active participation in discussions, presentations, etc. When you reflect on what you learn, it stays in your memory. It is like when you are learning how to swim, you do not really understand the technique until you actually get in the water and do the practice.

Jack Canfield uses a special methodology when training people and he is very successful in creating true transformation in people. He has exercises and really makes people go through a special experience through which they reflect, work, interact, and become really engaged in what they are doing like for example creating vision boards. But his technique has principles that are key learning steps in the whole process.

I am studying a course called “Learning How To Learn” which is an amazing course that teaches you how to overcome procrastination when studying, how to learn difficult subjects, and how the brain works.

It is important to repeat what we learn and also reflect upon it.

Of course, what we remember more is something that has an emotional impact, something funny, or that engaged us.

What is needed today, even in the workforce, is the ability to give people junior positions for example to get the practice they need. Nowadays, jobs are too focused on 2 or 3 years of experience but they do not have enough junior positions. It really does not make sense. There should also be junior positions so everybody can gain practical experience.

If STEM subjects were taught with Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality I am sure everybody would fall in love with these subjects and become better at their studies and work.

It is all about the experience.

I will definitely be using immersive technologies in my training programs not only in my company but even at a part-time job at a University which I am starting soon.

There is another thing which is important and it is that people do not like to sit several hours watching an event online even though it presents very interesting subjects. I heard this feedback from a big event I was a part of. Now the people organizing the event shorten the second event from 3 whole days to 1 whole day instead.

People want to network. They want to exchange knowledge and experiences and we see how companies are organizing online workshops and inviting people to talk about their experience.

I am very interested in transformational training because this is what we need today.

Furthermore, when you participate you feel you are adding value and also getting feedback on your ideas which can bring forward things that could help you to develop your interests.

Barbara Oakley explains many key things in her course “Learning How To Learn” where she talks about how she learned difficult subjects and became an Engineer while she had very low grades in Math back when she was in school. This video really impacted me and at a later time, when I was volunteering for innovation projects that had to do with the Exploration and Colonization of Mars, I noticed how fast I was able to come up with ideas, it was a process called Flow (I later learned when I was hearing a video by Steven Kotler, a famous author). At that moment, I came up with the idea of creating my startup MSEI. Now I am planning on becoming a Space Executive and I am already a Space Entrepreneur.

Barbara talked about the importance of using the Pomodoro Technique to solve problems like when you cannot get to sit and study a difficult subject. It has to do with how to get yourself to
start the learning process. She talks about how to focus and remember what you learn. How you need to repeat what you learn.

Learning also has to do with your conquering your false beliefs. These beliefs could be fear towards certain subjects or the way you think about them. Many people are scared of sales or think that they are not good at it. In reality, sales is about helping people. You have to think about it in a different way. The book Drive by Pink gives many insights.

These are the topics I am very interested in.

Today many people are struggling to conquer their false beliefs about sales and other subjects.

The way we have been learning is not the best way. Researchers are still coming up with developments about this.

I think that the IIEC Trainer program has the potential to transform people. It is exciting to empower others, open the doors to their own discovery, and set them free to explore.

Written by Veronica Chiaravalli