Active Methodologies for Learning

What are active methodologies for learning?

The most widely known and practiced model in educational institutions is that in which the student follows the subject taught by the teacher through lectures, with the application of assessments and assignments. This method is known as passive, as the teacher is the protagonist of education.

In the active methodology, the student is the main character and the major responsible for the learning process. Thus, the objective of this teaching model is to encourage the academic community to develop the ability to absorb content in an autonomous and participatory manner.

Through various studies carried out in the area, it was concluded that among the means used to acquire knowledge, there are some whose assimilation process occurs more easily. Thus, we have as a reference a theory by the American psychiatrist William Glasser to explain how people generally learn and the efficiency of the methods in this process.

Learning pyramid of William Glasser

According to this theory, students learn about:

10% by reading;

20% by writing;

50% by observing and listening;

70% discussing with other people;

80% by practicing;

95% teaching.

It is possible to observe, then, that the most efficient methods are inserted in the active methodology.

Flipped classroom in the support of pedagogical practices for active learning

The "flipped classroom" can be highlighted as a very current active method, which may even be the one that will dominate in the near future. Thus, this method aims to replace most of the lecture classes by virtual contents.

Moreover, in this model the student has access to online content, so that the time in class is optimised. This means that students arrive with prior knowledge and can only ask questions of their teachers and interact with classmates to do projects, solve problems or analyse case studies. This fact encourages the interest of the class in classes, making the class more participatory.

Students benefit from better class planning and the use of varied resources, such as videos, images and texts in various formats. After all, each one has a way of learning. In this way, it is possible to improve the students' concentration and dedication also in face-to-face meetings, without the teachers becoming exhausted.

Blended Learning

Blended learning combines activities with and without the teacher with the use of technology. In this way, it allows the student to study alone, with the support of the internet, and in class, either in a group or with the teacher.

Thus, blended education opens a space for critical thinking, after all, students have the opportunity to understand the subjects in a more in-depth manner and also bring questions and curiosities to face-to-face meetings.

What are the most common teaching-learning practices in active learning methodologies?

Besides the aforementioned traditional ways, some practices can be highlighted, which are already developed in many teaching institutions. Check some of them:

1. Project-based learning

Project based learning (PBL) - aims to make students acquire knowledge through the collaborative solution of challenges.

Therefore, the student needs to make an effort to explore possible solutions within a specific context - either by using technology or the various resources available, which encourages the ability to develop an investigative and critical profile when faced with a situation.

Moreover, the teacher should not expose the whole methodology to be worked on, so that students seek knowledge by themselves. However, it is necessary that the educator gives feedback on the projects and shows which were the mistakes and successes.

2. Problem-Based Learning

The purpose of the Problem-Based Learning method is to make the student able to build conceptual, procedural and attitudinal learning through proposed problems that expose him/her to motivating situations and prepare him/her for the world of work.

While project-based learning requires students to put their "hands on", problem-based learning focuses on the theoretical part of solving cases. The combination of these methods are often used so that students can have moments to learn both how to reasoning about a certain problem and how to act in order to implement possible solutions.

3. Case Study

The pedagogical practice of Case Study originates from the Problem-Based Learning method.

The Case Study offers students the opportunity to direct their own learning, while exploring their knowledge in relatively complex situations.

They are accounts of real-world situations, presented to students for the purpose of teaching them, preparing them to solve real problems.

4. Peer or team learning

Peer instruction (PI) or Team Based Learning (TBL), as the name implies, is about forming teams within a class to learn together and share ideas.

Whether it's a case study or a project, students can solve challenges and work together, which can be beneficial in the quest for knowledge. After all, with mutual help, one can learn and teach at the same time, forming critical thinking, which is built through informed discussions and taking into account divergent opinions.

The Problem Based Learning experience at Porto

At the Occupational Therapy undergraduate program of Escola Superior de Saúde do Politécnico do Porto, all the above strategies are being implemented combined since 2008 enabling students to learn while actively engaging with meaningful problems. Students have the opportunity to approach problems in a collaborative environment, create learning models and form habits of self-learning through practice and reflection. Thus, the philosophy underlying PBL is that learning can be considered a "constructive, self-directed, collaborative and contextual" activity. By the principle of constructivism, we understand students as active candidates for knowledge and cocreators who organize relevant new experiences into personal mental representations or schemas with the help of prior knowledge. This is further reinforced by social theories of learning that posit the merits of cognitive development from social interaction.

In a typical PBL scenario, learning is triggered by a problem that needs solving. The cognitive element of student engagement and defined as the origin of learning is some "perplexity, confusion, or doubt" that is triggered by "something specific that evokes and motivates you". Students make connections to this "perplexity, confusion or doubt" by activating their individual and collective prior knowledge and search for resources to make sense of the phenomenon; they also engage in peer learning through small group discussions and consolidate their learning through reflective writing. This can be defined as an assessment moment. In addition, by enabling students to make sense of concepts and subject matter, this learning experience is also likely to help students "develop an understanding of themselves and their contexts, and of the ways and situations in which they learn effectively". PBL as a pedagogical strategy is of interest to many teachers because it offers a training framework that supports active and group learning, based on the belief that effective learning takes place when students construct and co-construct ideas through social interactions and directed self-learning. Its implementation may vary between institutions and programmes, but in general it can be seen as an interactive process composed of first, a problem analysis phase, a period of self-directed learning and finally an import phase. A tutor, also referred to as a facilitator, acts as a guide for students' learning, promoting the building of the foundations for problem analysis and in report writing - components of the PBL tutorial, as well as facilitating students' research paths as they develop a sense of their ideas through discussion and sharing.

With this method, considering the assumptions of the Bologna Declaration, it was intended that students, throughout their training process, "learn to learn" and to deepen their knowledge, to work in teams (group work is a fundamental aspect in PBL), and essentially to leave more prepared for a professional reality in constant evolution.

In this model, the problems are presented and discussed in tutorial sessions, the practical training related to the different problems is developed in practical laboratory sessions, for learning and training specific technical skills and the theoretical context inherent to each problem is developed in resource sessions with previously identified themes or defined by the student him/herself.

Because of the complex variety of difficulties that individuals may present when they seek Occupational Therapy services, Occupational Therapists need to be competent in problem solving, including working together with their clients and finding acceptable solutions. They need to be able to analyse and evaluate the effects of different actions or to decide how best to intervene or when not to intervene and thus be able to produce professionally informed decisions and actions.

The methodologies inherent to this pedagogical process of problem-based teaching-learning have allowed and facilitated the development of a "pro-active" occupational therapist, with an aptitude for self-evaluation and distinguished by critical, creative thinking, with a commitment to keep up-to-date by continuing their professional training and in a perspective of lifelong learning, making appropriate use of the evidence guaranteed by the review of the most recent research literature as well as specialized text books.

Considering the complexity of the therapeutic process, namely the demand of the therapeutic relationship, the diversity of contexts where it takes place and the pré-requirements of a multi or transdisciplinary intervention, there is a need to contemplate the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal communication skills.

What are the benefits of active methodologies?

Finally, it is possible to highlight the existence of several benefits for both the academic community and the educational institution with the use of active methodologies.

The students:

  • acquire greater autonomy.
  • develop confidence.
  • see learning as something peaceful and doable.
  • become capable of solving problems.
  • become more qualified and valued professionals.
  • they become protagonists of their learning.

For the educational institution, the benefits are shown mainly with:

  • increased student satisfaction with the classroom environment.
  • improved perception of the students with the institution.
  • increased recognition in the market.
  • increased attraction, attraction and retention of students.

Therefore, the application of active learning methodologies has an important role for education, especially if the education team is seeking for substantial transformations.

Therefore, it is necessary to invest not only in good content, but it is necessary to be aware that improving the procedures used to educate is something extremely relevant.


Written by Joaquim Faias - PPorto



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