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Active Learning

Thoughtful questions, critical thinking, interaction, collaboration, problem-solving, learner autonomy and life-long learning. What is the keyword that brings all these concepts together? The answer is active learning.

Active learning is the involvement of the student directly in the learning process. Here, the teacher takes the role of the facilitator, letting the learners take responsibility for their own learning through collaboration with the teacher and classmates. 

One way to understand the value of Active Learning is by looking at Bloom's Taxonomy, a framework that categorizes learning objectives according to different levels of cognitive complexity. Bloom's Taxonomy identifies six levels of cognitive complexity, ranging from lower-order thinking skills such as remembering and understanding, to higher-order thinking skills such as applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. 

It is usually easier for the instructors to actively engage students in the learning process when doing activities requiring higher-order thinking skills such as group discussions, debates, presentations, problem-solving, and hands-on activities like experiments. However, learners usually stay passive when they are introduced to new content, and engage in lower-order thinking skills. It is important to provide opportunities for learners to be active from the very beginning of the learning experience. Therefore, it is crucial to integrate active learning strategies at each stage of the learning process. Below are some effective active learning strategies which serve to lower order thinking skills, remembering, and understanding. 


In this activity, learners generate ideas on a certain topic, category, or question while the teacher records answers or provides means for recording answers. All answers are welcomed during this activity as it is a great opportunity for students to recall their background knowledge to get ready for the new information. 

Mind Mapping 

Mind mapping is visually organizing information by showing the relationship among pieces of a whole. Learners create mind maps usually around a single concept and add associated words, images, and ideas to it. It is similar to brainstorming but requires more active cognitive processing. 

Running Dictation

Running dictation is a great active learning technique for a more active introduction or revision of concepts, definitions, or facts. For this activity, learners are divided into teams. One member of the team runs to a specific location to read information, then runs back to the team to report it, where a writer transcribes this information. Learners take turns dictating and writing until the activity is completed. 

Think Pair Share 

Think-Pair-Share is a cooperative learning activity. For this activity, learners first think to themselves (Think) about a given topic, then discuss their ideas with a classmate (Pair). After that, they share their collaborative response (Share) with the rest of the class and the discussion continues. 

Highlight, Annotate, and Ask for a Comment

Learners selectively highlight the text and annotate the information that they think is important while they are reading. Then, they exchange the material with a partner to make comments about each other’s work. 

Peer Feedback

Peer feedback is when learners give feedback to each other through oral or written comments on their work or performances. Learners must be clear about appropriate ways of giving feedback to each other and have reference material such as criteria, rubrics, or checklists for a more comprehensive feedback process. In this way, peer feedback can help students to develop a better understanding of what counts as high-quality work, and let them actively learn from each other. 

Using Active Learning techniques can lead to higher retention rates, better critical thinking skills, and improved performance on assessments. Active Learning fosters a supportive and inclusive learning environment, where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas and working together towards a common goal. So, if you're an instructor looking to improve student engagement, motivation, and learning outcomes, active learning is the way to go. 


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