A culture of active learning
The pedagogical approaches detailed earlier lend themselves perfectly to ‘active learning’ methods that require students to engage in their learning by thinking, discussing, investigating, and creating. ‘Active learning’ happens when the learning activity is taking place within the student’s brain rather than the observed behavior that is a means to that cognitive work.
Active learning is based on ‘constructivism’, a theory that stated that learners construct, or make meaning. SaiU’s skilled teachers enable deeper levels of understanding by providing conducive learning environments and opportunities that deepen learning.
Classroom time at SaiU is spent on practising skills, solving problems, dissecting complex issues, seeking peer feedback, arriving at conclusions, taking decisions, proposing solutions, and importantly, explaining these ideas orally in presentations, in written form as assignments and persuading others to see their perspectives in discussions.
Among the several benefits that researchers have identified, ‘active learning’ is known to have broadened avenues for learning. Processing the course contents through thinking, writing, arguing and discussing are more effective ways of acquiring knowledge than by cramming it merely for the sake of clearing examinations. ‘Active learning’ thus provides for personal connect with the material in turn increasing students’ motivation to learn.
Peer feedback trains students in being able to process ideas systematically and to critique them, thus deepening their understanding of the issues. It also hones a vital skill, that of being able to offer constructive feedback to others. Shared activities and goals enable regular and meaningful interaction with peers building a strong sense of community in the classroom.
When students actively research a topic and prepare the information for the rest of the class, they learn even better. After all, students are known to communicate better with their peers than with their teachers.
For the teachers, ‘active learning’ methods offer opportunities to gauge the students’ line of thought and to design their learning material accordingly. One-minute papers, class interactions, student debates, complemented by pop up quizzes or online discussions prepare the students to delve deeper into the concepts dealt with in the course.
The value accorded to class participation builds in accountability for individual and group work. The think-pair-share activity where students discuss issues with someone sitting near them ease students out of their comfort zone. Such activities draw reticent students out of their shell and encourage them to ask questions, challenge assumptions and offer solutions.
The student-centred learning approach resonates closely with SaiU’s philosophy. We at SaiU, are concerned as much with how they learn, as with what they learn. With active learning, students take charge of their own learning process. This autonomy equips them to continue learning even after they leave the University making our students life-long learners.