The active in active learning

Many higher education standards require the use of active learning.  So, it seems appropriate to include a discussion of active learning in any “teaching” experience or development program such as an academic training experience.

I was having a conversation with a student regarding active learning for just this very purpose.  She was completing an academic experience.  The discussion began with a personal reflection on learning style.  From there, I asked which learning experiences were the most successful for this student and why.  Was this active learning?

While there is a lack of consensus on what active learning is, I think that many would suggest that active learning involves cognitive processes above simple recall.  Whether physical activities are required is a matter of debate.  There is a long list of strategies and activities that may be implemented as active learning.

I asked my student what her expectations for this discussion had been. It was insightful that she expected to discuss a long list of activities.  However, we actually focused our discussion on reasons to use active learning?  Purpose, meaning, and intention.  Having those in mind will facilitate learning to the end that you intend rather than simply being busy work.

How have you seen active learning strategies change your students’ learning?  What is one thing that you would recommend to others who are considering a shift to more active learning?

For further reading:

Oyler DR, Romanelli F, Piascik P, Cain J. Practical Insights for the Pharmacist Educator on Student Engagement. Am J Pharm Educ. 2016; 80(8): Article 143.

Michael J. Where’s the evidence that active learning works? Adv Physiol Educ. 2006. 30: 159-167.