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What Is Active Learning?
Active learning happens when participants are given the opportunity to take a more interactive relationship with the subject matter of a course, encouraging them to generate rather than simply to receive knowledge. In an active learning environment, speakers facilitate rather than dictate the participants’ learning.

Why Active Learning?

Research has shown that active learning is an exceptionally effective teaching technique. Regardless of the subject matter, when active learning is compared to traditional teaching methods (such as lecture), participants learn more material, retain the information longer, and enjoy the class more. Active learning allows participants to learn in the classroom with the help of the instructor and other participants, rather than on their own.

How To Incorporate Active Learning Into Your CE Session

Employing active learning techniques in the classroom can pose difficulties to speakers and participants not accustomed to this mode of instruction. The speaker surrenders some of the control of the class as s/he becomes a facilitator, and the participants take increased responsibility for not only what but also how they learn. Incorporating active learning in the classroom, then, requires participants to act. Try using the following techniques to offer your students the opportunity to participate actively in their learning.

Think-pair-share is a simple activity you can use in any classroom format. Give participants time to think about a topic, turn to their neighbor for a short discussion, and then share the results with the rest of the class.

Minute Papers provide participants with the opportunity to synthesize their knowledge and to ask unanswered questions. Give participants a few minutes at the end of class to answer the following questions in writing: What was the most important thing you learned today? What important question remains unanswered? Variations of these questions, and the student questions and answers they generate, enhance your participants’ learning process and provide you with feedback on participants’ understanding of the subject material.

Writing activities of many kinds offer participants the opportunity to think about and process information. For example, in addition to minute papers, you could pose a question and then give participants time to free write their answers. You could also give participants time to free write about topics.

Brainstorming is another simple technique that can involve the whole class in a discussion.
Introduce a topic or problem and then ask for participants input, which you record on the board.

Games related to the subject can easily be incorporated into the classroom to foster active learning and participation. Games can include matching, mysteries, group competitions, solving puzzles, pictionary, etc.

Debates staged in class can be effective tools for encouraging participants to think about several sides of an issue.

Group work allows every participant the chance to speak, share personal views, and develop the skill of working with others. Cooperative group work requires all group members to work together to complete a given task. Break the class into groups of 2-5 participants. Give each group articles to read, questions to answer and discuss, information to share, subjects to teach other groups, etc.

Case studies use real-life stories that describe what happened to a community, family, school, or individual to prompt participants to integrate their classroom knowledge with their knowledge of real-world situations, actions, and consequences.



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