Active Vs. Passive Learning

A comparison of active vs. passive learning and the difference between the types of active and passive classes as it relates to learning.

Everyone who has gone to school knows that some classes are better, more interesting, or just livelier than others. We have all sat through classes where we learned little, except the facts and to be quiet and those seem to be the classes that drag on forever. We also have been part of classes where we actively learned by being challenged by teachers as well as the subject itself. Although classes often seem outwardly alike in having a teacher and students, and in producing some results, the difference between passive and active classes are enormous.

The passive kind of class usually has a teacher who lectures, put an outline or a few key terms on the chalkboard, and unloads information to the students. Most teachers in a passive classroom simply dictate information and answers. They tell the student how to think and what to think about the subject, no more no less. They pour facts into student’s minds like water coming out of a glass pitcher. Students are then forced by the authority of the teacher to sit,listen, take notes and absorb all pertinent information. The result of such a class are measured by multiple-choice or true-false questions, or questions that require memorized answers. The results in such classes are also measured by the quickness with which students forget the facts thery had poured into them.

The other kind of class, the active kind, usually has a teacher who stimulates students to learn for themselves by asking questions, by posing problems, and most of all by being a student too by receiving information as well as giving it out. Such a teacher might plan the outline of a course,but doesn’t force the class in only one direction instead the teacher would let the students search for answers, then discuss the findings. Students in active classes like that become more involved in their learning; they ask questions about why and how. Learning becomes fun; although students may forget the facts just as quickly, their attitudes toward learning and their excitment in developing answers for themselves don’t end with the last class. There is a difference between knowing a fact and understanding it. Despite their outward similarities, the passive kind of class is clearly inferior to the active one for helping students understand the world around them.

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