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Where did you start learning about computers? It was probably in a classroom – learning about monitors, CPUs, and keyboards. You would have nailed every question and aced every test. But when you started using a computer, it was a different ball game. You felt the gap between what you learned in the classroom and what you were learning by doing. This is where active learning can come into play. 

Active learning is a student-centered approach that can bridge learning gaps and ensure a holistic learning experience. Any learning activity where students learn by doing and thinking about things they are doing is active learning. With liberal education taking center stage in tertiary education, active learning has replaced the  lecture-listener model. 

Active learning is based on constructivism and encourages students to become active participants in learning. Students engage in meaningful learning activities, interactive sessions, and instructional games instead of passively consuming information. The role of the faculty here is to guide them in their learning journey. Students are encouraged to work together in breakout groups and develop the ability to collaborate and communicate, not just acquire subject knowledge. Active learning gives equal importance to content and the chosen process.

So, what can students gain out of active learning?

Collaborative skills

With the help of group activities, active learning encourages collaboration in classrooms. Students learn how to work effectively with peers, help each other learn, and feel a sense of belonging and inclusion. Active and collaborative learning includes educational practices urging students to  take responsibility for their learning. When they discuss the course content as a group, students broaden their perspectives and bounce ideas off one another. Such learning methods are highly recommended because they are dynamic, engaging, and multisensory.

Active learning practices

Students need more than lectures compiling facts and theories to become critical thinkers and problem-solvers. In an active learning environment, the faculty becomes a facilitator. Faculty invite students to come in and take a lead in activities such as classroom discussion, problem-solving, cooperative learning, and writing exercises that hone creativity. Activities challenge students through discussion, investigation, discovery, application, and experimentation.

Critical thinking and active learning go hand in hand, and a student benefits vastly from learning critical thinking skills through active learning. When students are encouraged to share ideas and build strong arguments, they become creative and reflective thinkers.

Pride and ownership in learning

Active learning encourages students to take control of their learning. When students work together as a group, debate, or research an idea, they automatically invest more in their learning. This is the first step in students becoming lifelong learners.

Active learning shifts the focus of learning to the student. A faculty becomes a co-learner, facilitator, or resource person. This change in role encourages practices that focus not only on the content but on various ways to understand it. Active learning also creates a learning environment that encourages consensual decision-making and respect for diverse opinions. 

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