Active Learning Misconceptions: Separating Fact from Fiction
Active learning is an innovative approach to education that encourages students to take an active role in their own learning process. It goes beyond traditional passive learning methods where students simply absorb information from lectures or textbooks. Instead, active learning empowers students to engage, participate, and interact with the learning material and their peers, allowing them to develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills.
Research has shown that active learning can significantly enhance students’ retention of information, critical thinking skills, and overall academic performance. Additionally, it encourages greater engagement, motivation, and self-directed learning—all of which are crucial for success in the modern world and lifelong learning.
The educational system in Singapore is starting to promote students’ participation in active learning. However, there are still a lot of active learning myths and misconceptions. Due to this, teachers and students are less likely to employ it and prefer to use rote learning.
Table of Contents
What is active learning?
Active learning is a teaching strategy that motivates students to actively participate in the learning process. Students actively participate in numerous activities that require them to think, evaluate, discuss, and apply their knowledge rather than passively taking in lectures or getting information from teachers.
What are the common types of active learning?
Active learning in the classroom setting encourages students to be active participants in their own learning, promoting higher engagement, critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills. It creates a dynamic and interactive learning environment that fosters deeper understanding, and long-term retention of information, and prepares students for real-world application of knowledge. Here are some common types of active learning that can be most commonly exercised in classrooms and even, outside, such as in tuition.
• Group discussions
Students participate in discussions where they share their ideas, perspectives, and questions related to the topic being studied. This encourages them to actively process information, articulate their thoughts, and learn from their peers.
• Collaborative projects
Students work in groups to complete a task or solve a problem. This promotes teamwork, communication skills, and critical thinking as students actively collaborate, research, and create together.
• Role-playing activities
Students take on different roles, such as historical figures or characters in a story, to actively immerse themselves in the subject matter and gain a different perspective.
• Problem-solving activities
Students are presented with real-world problems or scenarios and work individually or in groups to analyze, brainstorm solutions, and critically evaluate the best approach.
• Peer teaching
Students take turns teaching a concept or explaining a topic to their classmates, which reinforces their understanding of the material and promotes active engagement.
• Hands-on activities
Students engage in hands-on activities, such as experiments, simulations, or demonstrations, which allow them to directly interact with the learning material and develop a deeper understanding of concepts through direct experience.
What are the myths about active learning?
Active learning is a popular instructional approach that involves students actively engaging in the learning process. However, there are several misconceptions associated with active learning, including the belief that it is chaotic and lacks structure, time-consuming and inefficient, only suitable for certain subjects or age groups, disruptive and noisy, only for extroverted students, technology-dependent, and just about keeping students busy. It’s important to understand and address these myths to fully appreciate the potential benefits of active learning in promoting deeper engagement and improved learning outcomes for students.
Here are some of the myths about active learning and the reality behind them.
1. It’s only about completing an activity
Students frequently take notes or participate in discussions to actively learn. But performing these tasks shouldn’t be the main objective. These exercises merely support learning and improve students’ comprehension of the material.
Active learning is not just about completing activities. It goes beyond merely keeping students busy and actually involves intentional and purposeful engagement with the learning material. Active learning strategies encourage students to actively participate in constructing their understanding, think critically, apply their knowledge, and engage in meaningful learning experiences. It is not simply about completing activities for the sake of it, but rather fostering active engagement and deep learning that promotes critical thinking, problem-solving, and application of knowledge in real-world contexts.
2. It’s the same as inquiry-based learning
While active and inquiry-based learning may look to be similar on a surface level, as they both encourage students to learn independently and foster real-world experiences through exploring and questioning, they are also different in their own ways. Instead, it is a type of active learning that promotes critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
While inquiry-based learning is a specific approach that focuses on students generating their questions and conducting investigations, active learning is a broader instructional approach that involves students actively engaging in the learning process through various strategies and activities. Research, investigation, and questioning are all used to help students learn through inquiry-based learning. Students are invited to join in conversations or pose inquiries while reading to further this. Inquiry-based learning can be seen as a subset of active learning, but active learning can also include other approaches beyond inquiry-based learning.
3. It takes away a tutor’s influence
This particular myth can be closely regarded in relation to students who are engaging in home tuition. Active learning does not diminish the influence of tutors. Tutors are still in charge of overseeing students’ education. After all, they are accountable for creating lesson plans and including active learning in their lessons. For instance, they are in charge of incorporating group activities and debates or giving students more time to review during a session.
Additionally, tutors are in charge of keeping track of students’ growth and development. Not to mention that active learning only makes it possible for students to comprehend the material covered in class. Thus, tutors have to help students in acquiring and develop soft skills. Active learning can complement the role of a tutor in home tuition by providing opportunities for personalized instruction, promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills, encouraging active engagement and motivation, enhancing interaction and communication, and providing immediate feedback and assessment.
4. It requires students to move around a lot
The main goal of active learning is to keep the brain engaged rather than just the body. Still sitting in their chairs, students can work on tasks or projects without continually moving. These exercises typically encourage analysis, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Active learning strategies can be designed to encourage mental activity, such as discussions, debates, brainstorming, simulations, and other cognitive activities, without necessarily involving excessive physical movement.
It is not solely defined by physical movement, but rather by cognitive engagement and participation. However, the implementation of active learning can vary, and it is important to design strategies that align with specific pedagogical goals, promote inclusivity, and accommodate the diverse needs and abilities of students.
5. It makes students less respectful
Discussion and expressing one’s thoughts are greatly encouraged in active learning. This implies that occasionally, students may voice their disagreement with teachers or tutors. Active learning often involves student-centered approaches that empower students to take ownership of their learning, express their opinions, and engage in meaningful discussions, which can actually foster respect for diverse viewpoints and promote a sense of community and mutual respect among students.
With that, the setting in which discussions take place should be positive and polite. Teachers or tutors should first establish definite limits and guidelines. In this manner, students can collaborate with teachers or tutors as learning partners while still giving them the respect they deserve. Additionally, the role of the educator in facilitating active learning can reinforce expectations for respectful behavior and provide guidance on how to engage in respectful and constructive discussions, creating a conducive learning environment that values and encourages respectful interactions among students.
For students, active learning offers a variety of benefits and can take various forms, such as group discussions, debates, simulations, hands-on experiments, role-playing, case studies, and collaborative projects. In active learning environments, students are encouraged to ask questions, explore concepts, and apply their knowledge to real-world situations. This dynamic approach fosters curiosity, creativity, and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
However, it’s important to note that while active learning has been shown to be effective in many educational contexts, it may not be suitable for every situation or every student. It’s essential to consider the learning goals, context, and student needs when implementing active learning strategies, and to continuously evaluate their effectiveness.