19.08.2020 • 5 minutes
Every teacher is different. On one end of the spectrum, we find that history teacher who spent forty years reading the same content from the same book; on the other, Dead Poets Society’s John Keating, who inspires his students to make their lives extraordinary by whispering “Carpe Diem”.
The last few decades have witnessed a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that link brain and education. The results of research conducted by cognitive scientists have led to more and more schools adopting new approaches that fall under the umbrella of “active learning”.
Such innovative methods are called “constructivist”, as they focus on activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert in traditional exposition-centered course designs.
As a teacher in a traditional set-up, is it necessary to completely overturn one’s habits to improve student engagement and performance? The answer is no: devoting as little as 10% of lectures to cooperative activities is sufficient to start reaping the benefits of active learning, as proven by a 2014 meta-analysis of 225 studies (Freeman et. al, 2014).
By making sure your courses include several of the following elements, you can make your classes more engaging than most:
These solutions are not the whole story. Many elaborate models of active learning exist, but they all give maximum importance to the end-user, the student, and they generally revolve around the following four concepts:
We know what you’re thinking: few teachers have the freedom to structure their time the way they wish. Start by focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t; make sure every one of your students can benefit from new experiences: this will be the first of many iterations. By embracing this approach, you’re doing school design already!
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