Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Active Learning

One of the things they lectured about today was "active learning", which is apparently "revolutionizing higher education". Basically, the idea is that students zone out during lectures, so we're supposed to get them involved in the learning process. (Learn more: Here.) Examples would be things like:
The teacher pauses and gives the students time to figure out a question with their neighbor,
Group work,
Whole class debates,
Role playing,
Small quizzes,

It's all interesting stuff, but the tone of the presentation turned me off. The lecturer told us that %40 of higher ed students drop out or fail, and so we have to realize that the old methods just don't work. Then, he went on rapturously about active learning for a while and asked us to imagine what an active class looks like. People said things like "excited", "enthusiastic", "happy" and so forth. I've never understood the mentality that goes: "Well, the old ways don't work anymore. So, let's do the complete opposite and that should fix everything." Also, I have to wonder if a lot of this "active learning" doesn't amount to us getting paid to have the kids teach themselves.


Pantiespantiespanties said...

Arg. As an English teacher in Japan, it was a strain to change activities every 10-15 minutes, but that's what's required to keep high school kids interested in difficult material. It's fiendishly difficult to design a game, group work, or roleplay that, start to finish, uses classtime as productively as a *capable, engaged lecture* supplemented with effective, focused homework. We did it the way we did because they were high school students and had to be there. I can't imagine doing that and calling it university!

Rufus said...

I guess we're lucky in that way- the University can suggest things for us to do, but we pretty much teach however we want. I don't know about Japan, but in the states, the High Schools suggest things for teachers to do, and they pretty much have to do them. This is why I went into University instead.