What Does Active Learning Mean?
Active learning is an approach to instruction that requires learners to be engaged and actively participate in the learning process as opposed to passively absorbing knowledge shared. It is also referred to as experiential learning though some experts consider experiential learning a subset of active learning.
In a business context, individual employees, work teams or customers are involved in hands-on, intentional experiences as a means of acquiring new knowledge, skills or insights. It is characterized by critical thinking, problem-solving and direct collaboration.
Active learning pairs course content with reflection, application and feedback. Learners are equipped with transferable skills that effectively make them subject matter experts and ultimately drive organizational transformation.
Active learning typically has better outcomes than passive learning in the following respects:
- Learner attention and engagement
- Independent knowledge application
- Knowledge retention
- Critical thinking skills
- Communication skills
- Knowledge ownership
- Immediate feedback
- Motivation for continuous knowledge improvement
- Long-term value
Active learning may occur in a number of ways:
- Tests, quizzes, assessments and interviews to check understanding of main points.
- Project-based learning encompassing practical problem solving.
- Collaborative learning such as team-based action.
- Discussions and debates on concepts, dilemmas and strategies. May occur unsupervised peer-to-peer or under instructor supervision.
- Gamification through fun challenges, role playing, competitions, simulations and rewards.
- Site visits, field studies and case studies where learners observe real world application of business operations and strategies.
- Coaching and mentorship provide opportunities for guidance and personalized feedback.
- Networking with fellow industry professionals.
- Conducting extra research of concepts covered.
While active learning does mostly have better results than passive instruction, there is still an important place for passive learning. Active learning is time-consuming and expensive. It requires more rigorous planning, logistics and resources. Most learning is therefore passive by default. Passive learning is an easy and effective way to introduce new topics and ideas.