How To Make The Change To Active Learning

Mark Hubbard  |  June 7, 2018  |  Classroom

Making the shift to active learning can be a big transition for many teachers, especially if they have been lecturing for their whole careers.

For one thing, it involves giving up some degree of control over their classroom and transferring ownership of the learning process to the students themselves—and this shift can be accompanied by a profound sense of loss.  

Teachers with little or no experience in leading active learning strategies might find it somewhat intimidating to try a new teaching style. They may feel anxious about looking vulnerable in front of their students if something goes wrong.

These are legitimate concerns stemming from genuine emotions. Introducing change of any kind often makes people uncomfortable, and when you add in the fact that teachers are performing their jobs in front of an audience every day, that anxiety becomes even more magnified.

Leading a successful transition to active learning requires understanding and addressing the emotional implications of this change for teachers. Here are three important change management strategies that can help K-12 leaders do this effectively.

  • First, Clarify the purpose.  Make sure all staff members understand why you are asking them to make the change, and how it will help them become better educators. 

    When they understand the benefits of doing so, and how active learning can engage students and lead to independent thinking and deeper learning, teachers will be more likely to try it in their classrooms.
  • Next, Provide direction.  When you give teachers a clear roadmap for change, and you communicate and support them throughout the process, then you remove some of the barriers that might discourage them from trying—such as anxiety that they won’t know what to do or how to do it.
  • Lastly, Apply pressure and support.  Pressure is anything that makes it harder for teachers to continue doing what they were doing, and it can range from simply asking them to change, to making the new behavior a part of their professional evaluation system. Support would be anything that makes it easier for teachers to try something new, such as bonuses, incentives, training, or even overt permission to take risks without having to be perfect.

In Paragon’s resource guide entitled, “How to Lead Active Learning in Your Schools", you can read more about making the shift to active learning and how to manage the change with teachers and students.

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