Monthly Archives: January 2019

Active Learning and The First Kiss

omar-lopez-716653-unsplashFirst memory? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember where you were; what happened; how it felt. Or at least you remember remembering.

First lecture? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember where you were; what it was about; the lecturer’s clothes. Really?

First film you ever saw at the cinema? Emotionally significant? Powerful? You remember the cinema, the film, the story?

First day of school…first this first that first other. What do we learn from firsts? And what have they got to do with Active Learning?

Our firsts, our lasts and our interesting-in-betweens are memorable because they are different; they involve a significant change. A first is a change from not having/being/doing to having/being/doing. When you start something there’s a change, a difference; when you end it there’s another change; something weird in the middle is a change as well. Change is difference; difference is noticeable; noticeable is engaging; and if you are engaged you are active. Firsts, lasts and interesting get your brain involved.

Active means involved – like you were with your first kiss. You noticed that, right? Remembered it? Learned it. Replayed it.

In formal learning, you’re active when you have control, ownership, when you can affect things. Sitting and listening to someone else’s choice of topic delivered in someone else’s style is not active. You make it active by acting: by walking out to go and find your own curriculum presented in a way that suits you more.

Passive is great for the teacher. Bad for the student.

Going active with learning is a risk. You have to trust your students to act well; act in their best interests; act for their learning’s sake. Much easier to control them than share the ownership.

Why don’t we do active learning? Top 3 answers:

  1. We don’t know what it is and why it’s better than what we do now.
  2. We’re scared we won’t cover the curriculum.
  3. We don’t trust our students to share ownership of the learning with us.

And the top 3 reasons why we should do active learning:

  1. Students deserve it – their future demands it of them.
  2. Research justifies it.
  3. It’s more satisfying for everyone.

And finally, 3 ways to do active learning:

  1. Ask students about really effective lessons (and do more).
  2. Ask students to prove to you that they’ve learned. Challenge them. Push them.
  3. Make students accountable for their success. It’s up to them, not you.
  4. Embed the unexpected and the surprising. Plan in firsts, lasts and interestings.