Scientific studies prove that students respond better to active learning than passive engagement in the course material. So, if you are an educator struggling to get your students' attention, active learning might just be the solution you are looking for.
As the name suggests, active learning allows students to participate actively in classroom activities and learning materials. Moreover, it is also responsible for increasing attendance and helping students get better grades. Apart from the usual benefits of engaged learning and better results, active learning supports a healthy class environment through group discussions, quizzes that foster critical thinking, and activities that actuate curiosity and interest among students.
In this blog, we will explore active learning and how you can make it a part of your curriculum before (or even during!) the school year:
Active Learning can be described as a group of activities involving students in doing different things and then developing thinking capabilities to ponder over what they are doing.
Approaches that promote active learning focus more on developing skills than conveying information. It requires that students do something - read, discuss, write - that demands higher-order thinking.
Active Learning highlights students’ explorations of their attitudes and values associated with their work. The traditional passive learning model isn’t serving educators anymore. The noise created by laptops and social media provides students with endless distractions and opportunities for the easy ways out. To keep students interested, there is a need to engage them, so they are alert and attentive in the classroom.
Instructional designers and educators need to understand that students do not learn just by sitting in the classroom and listening to their teachers talk for hours. Neither prepackaged assignments nor exams that require students to cram an endless amount of information are doing any good.
Active Learning strategies can help students relate their learning to past or present experiences. Using tools like social media or the internet to help students access and learn information can take the glamor of distraction away. Finally, when students consciously engage in the classroom material, they won’t just know what it means but will understand the concept and how it is relevant to them.
Incluclating active learning design isn’t as hard as most stakeholders in the course creation process assume. It shouldn’t be a time-consuming, gruesome process, and that is why we have created this small guide that will help you understand how to make active learning strategies a part of your course:
The first step in creating an engaging learning experience is to examine the current challenges you are facing, and that need help to solve. This is where the instructional designer and an Educator should be collaborating. Before you delve into designing a course, it is essential to research how new strategies can create an environment conducive to better learning for the students of your particular course. Every class has a different need, so your students' requirements might vary depending on what you teach.
What can help here is the past data you have collected. From the grades to participation and dropout rate, each statistic can help build a picture of the kind of revamp your course needs.
When you use previous analytics, you can better understand where your students are lagging behind and what you can improve to aid the process of efficient learning.
The next thing you need to do is to break down your course into modules and topics that you would like to focus on throughout the semester. Here, your data can support you too. Look closely into where your students struggled the most. What sort of assessments did poorly? Pull out as much information as possible on these and think about the active learning ways you would like to incorporate as a possible remedy. You should ideally follow this step when you are planning your syllabus. It is easier to focus on modules when the plan is mapped out in front of you. Finally, write down questions that speak to every aspect of your modules. Write down as many questions as you can think of. Consider these questions as you imagine holding discussions on them with your students.
With the help of your modules and the main questions, design and draft your learning objectives and the intended outcomes. The list of topics and the core questions surrounding them can help create refined learning objectives.
To build a robust plan, pair each objective with a clearly defined outcome. This is what your student must be able to accomplish after finishing the module. This will help you see the effectiveness of the modules, questions, and objectives you created. These combine to form a perfect synergy for active learning design requirements for a better classroom experience.
Now is the time to start planning your activities. With a roadmap in front of you, it is easier to design the learning experience accordingly. Ensure that you know the specificities, including which classes are online, which are in-person, which topics will have discussions, which will have quizzes or group work, etc.
Not all forms of activities will work for every module. You have to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of these strategies for different parts of your course. Keep changing the modalities from class to class as you learn from trial and error.
Don’t forget that an active learning curriculum will work best if you keep students engaged and a part of the feedback process. You don’t necessarily have to evaluate the efficaciousness of introducing them at the end of the semester. Instead, a healthy feedback cycle mid-course or post-assessment evaluation will help you build a better classroom experience.