Why Active Learning?

Cindy Eggebrecht  |  March 9, 2018  |  Classroom, Maker Space

A 2016 survey of K-12 leaders from the Center for Digital Education reveals why more schools are moving toward active learning.

In the survey, K-12 leaders said active learning is more engaging and effective than a traditional lecture-based approach to instruction, and it also helps build teamwork and other 21st century skills that are needed for success in the workplace.

A separate survey of company executives by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that working well together as a team to make decisions and solve problems is the No. 1 skill that employers most value among new hires—and active learning helps students develop this critical skill.

Want further proof? A study published by the National Academy of Sciences confirms the benefits of active learning on student achievement.

The study compared the performance of students in undergraduate math and science classes under traditional lecturing versus active learning. It found that average scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections—and that students in classes with traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes with active learning.

What’s more, active learning gives students opportunities to move around during class, which delivers both academic and health-related benefits. Movement increases blood flow, which awakens our cells and stimulates our brains—so students feel more alert and can focus better.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that physical activity “can have an impact on cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention, as well as improved classroom behavior.”

By taking a more active role in their education, students learn more while also taking ownership of learning process. As a result, they learn to become independent thinkers and problem solvers. As one teacher was quoted in the Washington Post:

“I used to think it was good teaching to stand in front of a class and lecture and have students quietly doing work alone at their desks, but I don’t think that anymore. (A great classroom is) a place where students are doing as much of the talking and thinking and problem solving as the teacher. It’s a place where students are tackling questions and problems that are relevant to their daily lives. This kind of classroom helps prepare students to be thinkers—and that is the most important skill a teacher can teach.” 

Active learning is…

  • More engaging: Higher student engagement is the No. 1 benefit of active learning, K-12 leaders say.
  • More effective: 86% of K-12 leaders say active learning improves student outcomes.
  • Helps build 21st century skills: 75% of K-12 leaders say the teamwork skills that students develop through active learning are critical for career success.

(Source: Center for Digital Education, 2016)

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