Active Learning – Part I

Recently I read about an interesting campaign. STOP MUGGING, START LEARNING CAMPAIGN! It is a movement aimed at creating an education system that promotes learning and not mugging. To surge ahead in time in this new world of possibilities, we need better minds. We need to change the way we think and help pupils under our care realize that that they need to really learn. Students must learn for learning’s sake and not just to pass an examination or earn a grade. Unless we start in our classrooms this change will be a dream.

To have effective teaching and learning in our classrooms, we must engage our students actively. When we are progressing with our lesson, are our students actively engaged or passively listening? Do we find students sitting with blank expressions on their faces? Do we find students engaged in other activities? Passing notes & chits? Giggles and wriggles?? If yes, it’s time to pause. Reflect. Relook at the classroom strategies we use. Introspect on the tasks / strategies we use. Jot them down in a sheet of paper / journal.

Unless students take ownership of their learning, they cannot assimilate what they have learnt. They must be attentive and respond to suitably phrased questions that you ask. Ever wondered how to create this kind of a classroom where students actively learn and engage with their learning?

To enhance classroom teaching and learning we have to step outside our comfort zone. We must undertake new strategies that help us to sample different approaches and thereby cater to varied needs. It keeps our teaching fresh, savoury and our students and we continue to learn.

As teachers we are expected to teach. Does this just mean taking centre-stage as the know-all and rattle off at our pace? What then is our role as teachers? Times have changed so much that our students are techno savvy and many a time we depend on them for this. A teacher’s role has undergone a sea change. In the 21st century classroom the teacher dons many hats – that of a facilitator, a guide, a moderator, a classroom manager and an overseer.

Students need to be involved in their work, whether that means a lab experiment or a role play or a seminar or an essay assignment. Teacher-facilitated and student-centered activities bring energy to the classroom. In the eyes of our students, we are showing them the benefits of the lesson in a more concrete way by using active learning strategies.

Thanks to television and commercials, we are all trained for frequent breaks – in fact research says that today’s child expects one every eight minutes. This is why it is essential to have at least two activities lined up for a 40 minute class. A lecture for more than 15 minutes without an activity brings about deadpan expression in them. It is worth remembering that the average attention span of our students is the average age of the class. Teachers in younger classes must therefore use active learning strategies naturally as they are a necessity for their own survival in the classroom. If we divide our lessons into smaller intervals mixing some teacher-centered ideas with student-centered activities, students engage well in learning the material and active learning happens. Teacher-centered learning strategies however also do have a bearing on a daily basis in the classroom.

When we add activities to enhance learning we add perceptible value to our own teaching and the learning of students. This then sparks energy and enthusiasm in the class. Ask them questions frequently. This will again keep them engaged in the learning. By being in touch with our learners’ perspectives we can make any subject come alive to them. Achieving objectives then becomes a student goal, rather than a teacher goal. Pupils then take onus for their learning. Life skills are developed and expanded and communication skills are emphasized.

As educators, when we thus become more alert and responsive to the needs of our students, our subject comes alive to each and every learner. Simply put, the students enjoy it! And with that learning simply becomes active and with ownership!!

Shall we make a beginning ??? STOP MUGGING & START LEARNING!

(The next post will deal with some strategies to make learning active.)

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