Developing a New Teaching Approach – Active Learning
Think about how often you have heard a song being sung on the radio, television or CD in the car. Even though you may have heard the song repeatedly, how often can you recall all the words to the songs or even describe its sentiments? Now think about some of the learning sessions you have taught and how you have explained a concept or a skill to a group of students repeatedly but they still do not seem to understand. Research indicates we only retain approximately 10% of what we hear in our long term memory. Consequently, if students are just listening to the teacher talking for long periods of time in a lesson, most of what they say will not be retained and they will not learn. Recent research assert that most effective learning takes place when students are ‘doing’ things and engaged in activities that promote active learning. Such activities often lend themselves to group work. Active learning is a method of designing instruction so that classroom students are actively involved in learning concepts and content. Instead of casting students into the role of passive listener, active learning techniques aim to engage learners in reading, writing, discussing and doing things to connect the learners to the material. Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive development was used as a guide to identify critical thinking skills (comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation) that could be linked to specific assessment methods. This study examines the evidence for the effectiveness of active learning. Two instructors conducted a series of analyses on sample classes taught with traditional lecture and inquiry-based learning methods. The classes were designed with a learner-centered focus using active learning techniques. Several strategies used successfully in those classes will be described in this paper. Qualitative and quantitative analyses and results from students’ feedback indicate that such methods are preferred by students, improve student retention, neither affect nor decrease content knowledge, promote deeper comprehension of course material, increase logical thinking skills and students enjoy the active learning segments of the class much better than modules that are mostly lecture-based.
Keywords- active learning, student-centered classes, inquiry-based learning, Bloom’s taxonomy