*What is active learning?
Active learning is a pedagogical practice that places student learning at its centre. It focuses on
how students learn, not just on what they learn. We as teachers need to encourage students to
‘think hard’, rather than passively receive information. Active learning encourages students to
take responsibility for their learning and supports them in becoming independent and confident
learners in GISU and beyond.
Research shows us that it is not possible to transmit understanding to students by simply telling
them what they need to know. Instead, we need to make sure that we challenge students’
thinking and support them in building their own understanding. Active learning encourages more
complex thought processes, such as evaluating, analyzing and synthesizing, which foster a
greater number of neural connections in the brain. While some students may be able to create
their own meaning from information received passively, others will not. Active learning enables
all students to build knowledge and understanding in response to the opportunities we provide.
*Why adopt an active learning approach?
We can enrich all areas of the curriculum, at all stages, by embedding an active learning
In active learning, we need to think not only about the content but also about the process. It
gives students greater involvement and control over their learning. This encourages all students
to stay focused on their learning, which will often give them greater enthusiasm for their studies.
Active learning is intellectually stimulating and taking this approach encourages a level of
academic discussion with our students that we, as teachers, can also enjoy. Healthy
discussions mean that students are engaging with us as a partner in their learning.
Students will better be able to revise for examinations in the sense that revision really is ‘re-
vision’ of the ideas that they already understand.
Active learning develops students’ analytical skills, supporting them to be better problem solvers
and more effective in their application of knowledge. They will be prepared to deal with
challenging and continuing to learn once they have left school and are better equipped for the
transition to higher education and the workplace.
*What are the challenges of incorporating active learning?
When people start thinking about putting active learning into practice they often make the
mistake of thinking more about the activity they want to design than about the learning. The most important thing is to put the student and the learning at the centre of our planning. A task can be quite simple but still get the student to think critically and independently. Sometimes a complicated task does not actually help to develop the students’ thinking or understanding at all. We need to consider carefully what we want our students to learn or understand and then shape the task to activate this learning.