Active Learning is the pedagogical approach recommended for EASL classrooms and labs.
Active Learning Defined
"Active learning is an interactive and engaging process for students that may be implemented through the employment of strategies that involve metacognition, discussion, group work, formative assessment, practicing core competencies, live-action visuals, conceptual class design, worksheets, and/or games." (Driessen et al., 2020)
Active Learning is a catch-all term that essentially refers to the instructional strategy of creating opportunities for students to act on the new information they are learning in a class. It is often misunderstood as being antithetical or opposite to the instructional strategy of lecturing. This is not the case.
Active learning, as we will refer to it in this course, describes an approach to teaching that emphasizes three elements in and outside of class:
- Introduction to new content
- Opportunities to practice and receive feedback
- Opportunities to reflect and revisit new learning to ensure that it sticks.
Active learning can be as simple as pausing a lecture for one-minute and inviting students to reflect on what you just said. It can be as complex as a semester long inquiry-based researched project. Designing a course for active learning means that student action is intentionally incorporated into the design of each day’s lesson plan. The action could be silently thinking orwriting, solving a problem, answering a clicker question, taking a quiz—but it must require the student to retrieve information from their own brain. By this definition, simply listening and taking notes are not active learning.
The DNA of active learning is the bi-directionality of information: information goes to the student, and information comes from the student. The type, amount, and frequency of opportunities for the student to retrieve new learning is where the importance of thoughtful, integrated design comes in. When instructors have access to EASL classrooms, there are far more tools to support this bi-directional flow of information to and from students.
Research on Active Learning Reviews of the literature (Freeman et. al, 2014
; Prince, 2004
; Michael, 2006
) show extensive empirical support for active learning.
Freeman et al.'s (2014) meta-analysis of 225 studies comparing active learning approaches with traditional lecturing showed improved exam scores and decreased failure rates for active learning. The authors write, “If the experiments analyzed here had been conducted as randomized controlled trials of medical interventions, they may have been stopped for benefit—meaning that enrolling patients in the control condition might be discontinued because the treatment being tested was clearly more beneficial."
Several research studies demonstrate the positive impact active learning can have upon students' learning outcomes:
- Increased content knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, and positive attitudes towards learning in comparison to traditional lecture-based delivery (Anderson et al, 2005)
- Increased enthusiasm for learning in both students and instructors (Thaman et al., 2013)
- Development of graduate capabilities such as critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, adaptability, communication and interpersonal skills (Kember & Leung, 2005)
- Improved student perceptions and attitudes towards information literacy (Deltor et al., 2012)
- Check out the latest research on active learning featured in Active Learning in Higher Education journal.
Despite the wide range of positive benefits listed above, Michael (2006) articulates an important point: “active learning doesn’t just happen; it occurs in the classroom when the teacher creates a learning environment that makes it more likely to occur”. The importance of faculty development and support to the successful implementation of active learning in EASL classrooms has been well documented in the literature