Raising Retention through Active Learning
Students today are harder than ever to keep focused. With the constant influx of information, teachers have to get creative to keep Generation Z engaged. Both educators and psychologists have studied the teaching methods that are most effective – and they always point to active learning. Active learning is a method of learning in which students are actively or experientially involved in the learning process.1 While interaction keeps things interesting (Generation Z expects education to be an experience), it also increases retention of what is being taught. Many types of active learning have become popular due to the increase of information published about the advantages of active learning over a traditional lecture. The main categories include focused learning and teaching, investigating and exploring, events and life experience, spontaneous play, and planned, purposeful play2. Below are some ideas of ways you can incorporate active learning in your classroom.
Examples of Active Learning Methods
- A class discussion or small group discussion may be held in person or in an online environment. Discussion requires the learners to think critically on the subject matter and use logic to evaluate their and others’ positions. Students learn to explore and respect differing perspectives. Small group discussions tend to be more engaging as students have more confidence in sharing with a few peers rather than the whole class.
- A written exercise is another type of active learning in which students are asked to respond to materials taught or read. The process of writing about a new topic pushes them think through the material critically, leading to an increase in retention and understanding. Learn more about why bringing students to the board increases learning exponentially.
- A learning cell, also known as a student dyad, is a process of learning where two students individually develop questions and answers and alternate between answering and asking them.3 The method leads students to actively think about taught content, generate thought-provoking questions, and check their understanding.
- A class game is also considered an energetic way to learn because it not only helps the students to review the course material before a big exam, but it also helps them enjoy learning about a topic. Examples of these games include trivia games, bingo, and crossword puzzles – all ways of practising the recall of information learned.
- Student debates offer an active way for students to learn by gathering information to support their view and then explaining it to others. Students not only actively participate, but also gain experience with giving a verbal presentation.
- Activities that send students through a variety of stations4, also known as a gallery walk5, is another example of active learning. The teacher provides an open-ended question for students to answer at each station, encouraging group discussion and critical thinking.
- Responding to a video is a different type of active learning where students are asked to watch and listen to new material. The use of multiple types of input frequently result in increased retention versus a lecture, which is only one input type (listening). Including a few questions before you start the video can increase the students’ attention as they are expected to listen for an answer. Breaking students in groups to discuss the video further enhances retention and understanding.
- Learning by teaching involves students actively researching a topic with the goal of being able to teach it to their peers. Known as the protege effect, research shows that students who teach others perform better on tests than those who learn for the sake of learning.
- A collaborative learning group is a common method of active learning. Students are assigned to work in a group on a specific task or assignment. They are frequently asked to report out to the class what they learnt, providing another method of practicing public speaking. Group projects fall into this type of active learning.
While this list is by no means all of the types of active learning that exist, we hope that it will give you some ideas on how to make your lessons more interactive. You can also learn more about engaging Generation Z with Clarus’ CEU. Add a Clarus go! Mobile into the mix and start learning!
1 “Active Learning.” Center for Educational Innovation. University of Minnesota, https://cei.umn.edu/active-learning.
2 Roose, Matteo. “Active Learning and your Child.” St. Thomas More Catholic Primary School, 2016, https://slideplayer.com/slide/3090630.
3 Freire, Jorge. “Learning Cell – Active and Collaborative Learning in Pairs in City’s Learning Spaces.” Learning at City. University of London, 21 Aug. 2014, https://blogs.city.ac.uk/learningatcity/2014/08/21/learning-cell-active-and-collaborative-learning-in-pairs/#.xypzyznkhty.
4 “Optimizing Station Rotation in Blended Learning.” Edutopia. George Lucas Educational Foundation, 20 Sept. 2019, https://www.edutopia.org/article/optimizing-station-rotations-blended-learning
5 “Gallery Walk.” The Teacher Toolkit. Region 13 Educator Certification Program, http://www.theteachertoolkit.com/index.php/tool/gallery-walk.
6 Nouhi, B. et al. “The Protégé Effect.” Demystifying Medicine. McMaster University. 22 Oct. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBM87YqTUdE.