Active Learning in the Classroom
"Your class was genuinely the best class that I had in my entire engineering school, period. Honestly, it was surprising how a new and different teaching method could make us learn ten times more than the old boring and stressful methods" ~~~ Student, Spring '17.
I use active learning in my classrooms. "Active learning" is when students participate in the education process rather than just sitting and passively listening. More information on the history, empirical evidence in support of active learning, and early methods can be found in this Government report. Ultimately, to me, active learning is about multi-directional communication in the classroom (online or Face-to-face) --- as opposed to unidirectional lecturing: "me talk, you listen!". As the professor and class facilitator, I often leave my classes invigorated and inspired.... and despite not requiring mandatory attendance, I generally get excellent class attendance. Surprise, surprise, people like to talk and feel like their presence and contribution has value! And when people feel valued and happy they learn too!
When we set out to create an 'active classroom' and engage in active learning we often, or at least I do, create activities suited to our own learning style. I am a social learner and prefer visual and logical methodologies to explain concepts --- thus I tend to favor visual and social classroom activities.
Some people cringe at the thought of group work. Some are quiet and/or shy and don't like to talk in class. This is a concept that is completely foreign to me, but I appreciate that this is their learning style. One of my beloved advisors once told me he couldn't "be arsed with active learning --- what a crock of s#*t!", he said, "I don't want to learn or listen to the opinions of fellow students. I paid good money to learn from a learned professor!"
My beloved advisor is in the minority of people that learn by listening to a lengthy lecture, taking copious notes, reading silently and thinking through a problem alone. Fortunately for him, and unfortunately for the rest of us, most of education is geared towards the solitary, aural, verbal learning style. Let's change that!
An active classroom should be diverse; diverse in the sense that it caters to all learning styles. In the following sub-pages you will find a diverse range of active learning activities, all tried and tested by me, for all learning styles.