Active learning is an appealing concept. This week’s readings provide an interesting introduction to the topic. I see valuable applications of active learning techniques to catch and then keep students’ attention in the classroom. I found Felder’s introduction to active learning particularly amusing and educational at the same time. A nice little laundry list of how to create an active learning environment!
I do wish that some of my undergraduate and even graduate courses had made use of some of these techniques. It would have saved me a lot of frustrating, tiring, and – in the end – wasted classroom time… In my opinion, 3-hour evening classes could benefit from these activities. There is absolutely NO WAY that students can pay attention for that long in a traditional, lecture-focused class format.
Thinking back to some of my evening courses, I argue that the last 60 minutes were usually completely lost. As an individual who enjoys learning, this is a truly frustrating experience. I kept wondering why professors structure their class time in such a way… Don’t they see that students drift off? Do they not care? Have they tried other – more engaging – techniques in the past but weren’t successful? I also remember feeling a little guilty and like a slacker when I found my mind wandering off to other (more or less) important topics.
Sure, asking questions is a form of encouraging active learning through engagement. In that sense, many traditional professors may be considered promoters of active learning, even if they don’t see themselves as such… But the true sense of active learning goes beyond asking questions, in my opinion. How engaging and effective is it really when a professors throws out “Are you with me?” every five minutes?