Active learning is not about what the trainers are doing while teaching. It is about what the learners are doing while learning on their own. Active learning is the demonstration of our role as facilitators of learning.
Active learning is the other side of active training. As a trainer, embracing active learning helped me design programs that are meaningful, engaging, and practicable. Managers will benefit greatly from Active Training Workshop.
Active training is an instructional method where you design opportunities for the learners (employees) to actively participate in the learning process, instead of the typical info dump.
Active learning will turn every supervisor into an effective trainer and coach. By learning the methods and techniques of active learning, employees learn new information and acquire new skills faster and easier.
My name is Jef Menguin. I have been using active learning since 2004. And I teach this approach to trainers all over the Philippines.
In this article, I will share some of my secrets to help supervisors enable and equip employees.
What is active learning?
Active learning is an educational process or teaching method that engages students in the learning process by requiring them to participate actively, rather than simply absorbing information passively. It encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Active learning can take many forms, including:
Discussion and Debate: Students are encouraged to discuss and debate concepts or ideas, which helps them to understand different perspectives and to formulate and articulate their own viewpoints.
Problem-Solving: Students are given a problem or task to solve, often requiring the application of what they have learned. This helps to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Project-Based Learning: Students undertake a project or assignment that requires them to apply their knowledge and skills to produce a tangible outcome. This encourages deep learning and helps to develop a range of practical and transferable skills.
Hands-On Activities: Students participate in practical, hands-on activities, such as experiments or fieldwork. This helps to reinforce learning and to develop a range of practical skills.
Peer Teaching: Students are encouraged to teach or explain concepts to their peers, which helps to reinforce their own understanding and develops communication and teaching skills.
Inquiry-Based Learning: Students are given a question or topic to investigate, encouraging them to develop research skills and to learn through discovery.
Flipped Classroom: This approach involves students learning content outside of class (e.g., through online videos) and then using class time for discussion, practice, and problem-solving.
Active learning is based on the constructivist theory of learning, which suggests that learners construct their own understanding and knowledge through experiences and reflection on those experiences.
It is often contrasted with passive learning, where students mainly listen to lectures or read text without actively engaging with the material.
Research suggests that active learning can improve students’ understanding, retention, and application of knowledge, as well as promote engagement and motivation.
Active learning is important because it works.
Active learning is not just about learning and understanding new concepts. It’s a holistic approach that empowers employees, improves their skills, and promotes a positive and interactive learning environment.
When you use active learning, you can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your training programs. Active learning also builds success. And success builds confidence. And confidence amplifies competence.
Let’s explore the 10 reasons why active learning is important.
1. It enhances engagement.
Think about this – what grabs your attention more, watching a documentary or being a part of a discussion group about that documentary? Or better yet, being the one who’s making the documentary?
The latter, right?
That’s because you’re an active participant in the learning process, not just a spectator. You are Michael Jordan in a championship game, not just someone reading a book about Michael Jordan.
Can you see the difference?
Active learning turns employees from passive recipients into active contributors in their learning journey.
Instead of listening to long lectures or reading manuals, they take part in discussions, workshops, and hands-on activities.
The result? They are more focused, invested, and attentive, enhancing their engagement levels.
2. It improves understanding.
When I was young, we had a Physics teacher who thought he was an excellent teacher. But after his class, everyone complained that we did not understand a thing.
I belong to the first section. My classmates were the cream of the crop. But even they found the teachers’ lectures confusing.
But the fun thing happened to me when I was asked to teach a Physics class. I didn’t know why I accepted it. Probably because it was only for a few days.
But I learned a lot about Physics. That’s because I was on a mission to make it very clear to the students. I did the experiments before I asked them to do the experiments.
You don’t truly understand something until you try it yourself.
It’s like learning to ride a bike; you can read all the instructions, but until you get on the bike and try balancing, pedaling, and steering, it doesn’t quite make sense.
Active learning is similar.
By involving employees in exercises and activities that apply the learning material, they gain a deeper, more practical understanding.
They connect with the subject matter in a way that’s not possible through passive learning, leading to improved comprehension and application.
One more example.
I bet most of us have experience in team building. I am referring to one-day events given to employees. Most of them play games. At the end of the session, people say that teamwork is important.
But I bet that most of them just need to say that. Because you expect to learn teamwork in team building.
Excellent team building has goals. Team building is effective only when it makes you understand what you mean by teamwork and how it translates to behaviors at work.
Active learning is not just active. More important is the learning in active learning.
Active learning helps us understand clearly.
3. Better Retention
Remember cramming for tests? You probably forgot most of the material right after the exam. That’s the downside of passive learning – it doesn’t stick.
On the other hand, active learning, where employees engage with the content, results in better memory retention.
They are more likely to recall and use the information they actively processed.
Imagine an employee learning about customer service by role-playing a challenging customer interaction. That experience will stick in their mind more than just reading about handling difficult customers.
4. It promotes critical thinking.
Imagine you’re stuck on a desert island. You have to come up with creative solutions for survival. That’s what active learning does.
It puts employees in situations where they need to solve problems, make decisions, and think critically.
In a typical training, the lecturer is dumping information on you. You are not even expected to process this information. You only need to jot them down.
Of course, you need to stay awake. Sometimes, the trainers call someone and you don’t want everyone to learn that you have not understood a thing.
But it is different when they ask you to sit down together and solve a problem.
Active learning cultivates an environment where employees are encouraged to analyze, evaluate, and create solutions.
Over time, these problem-solving skills become second nature, preparing them to face workplace challenges effectively.
5. It encourages self-directed learning.
Active learning is like a DIY project; it’s all about taking charge and figuring things out on your own.
I remember a teacher in college who measures the student’s intelligence by their ability to parrot her. This was in a Political Science class. She does all the talking. And we have to wait for our recitation.
I learned from this. So, I did not use that method since the day I entered the classroom as a teacher.
Let me give an example.
I once did a training on Business Writing. That’s a huge topic, I know. But I learned need to only learn the various kinds of email communication.
So, I grouped them. There were four people in each group. Each group received a different set of business emails. I asked them to analyze the email given to them and come up with seven rules for writing that kind of letter.
It only took them 20 minutes. They presented their rules. We discussed them. And from those rules, they came up with templates.
It took some trainers to teach those lessons for a semester. The supervisors in my class needed only two hours to master the rules.
Employees become more responsible for their own learning. They are encouraged to seek knowledge, ask questions, and explore topics that interest them.
This autonomy not only boosts their confidence but also promotes a culture of continuous learning and curiosity.
If an employee is interested in project management, active learning might involve them initiating a small project to understand the process better.
That means you turn the workplace into your classroom.
6. It enhances communication skills.
Active learning often involves group activities, which can be a fun and effective way to improve communication skills. Think of it like being on a sports team.
You learn to pass the ball, strategize together, and cheer each other on. Similarly, in an active learning environment, employees often work in teams to solve problems, discuss topics, or present their findings.
Earlier, I shared what I did in Business Writing. Each group has to come up with 7 rules. They analyzed the text. They brainstorm answers. They came up with easy-to-understand rules. They communicated with each other.
Now, imagine what I did to my Speak Like A Leader.
You guessed it right, they delivered speeches in my class. But they did not end there because those speeches where meant to be delivered in their town halls and regular meetings.
They learned a lot because they were not just trying to learn how to deliver an excellent speech. They crafted, rehearsed, and delivered speeches to their employees.
This exposure to different viewpoints and ideas can greatly enhance the employees ability to communicate effectively and respectfully.
And supervisors can also learn what I did. Active learning is easier to do than explain.
7. It benefits from real-time feedback.
I just shared the Speak Like a Leader workshop.
The leaders got guidance from choosing the topics, creating titles, making the outline, crafting the stories, and delivering them. All the time they get feedback from me and from their group mates.
You don’t get feedback in a lecture. Perhaps, the feedback from the microphone. But your lecturer won’t ask to know really if you are doing it right because you are not doing anything.
Active learning is like having a GPS for your learning journey. It provides real-time feedback that guides employees toward their learning goals.
So, even if you have to travel 200 kilometers, it is likely that your GPS will give tell you your next turn.
“In 200 meters, turn left.”
And because of the constant feedback, you have the confidence that you are going to get to where you want to go.
Here’s another example.
During a role-play exercise, a supervisor can immediately point out areas of improvement and offer constructive feedback. This instant feedback allows employees to understand and correct their mistakes quickly, reinforcing their learning and boosting their confidence.
8. It increases motivation.
Let’s face it; traditional learning methods can be a bit dull. In contrast, active learning makes the learning experience more enjoyable and motivating.
That’s because you are involved. And when you are moving, you are making little success. You may not call that success, but your body knows that you are moving from a to b, c, d, e, and so on.
Motivation is energy in motivation.
In active learning, instead of just reading about a concept, employees get to experiment, discuss, and apply their learning.
This active involvement makes the learning experience more rewarding, increasing motivation levels and boosting enthusiasm for learning.
9. It promotes a growth mindset.
Remember the first time you tried baking a cake and it came out all wrong? But with every new attempt, you got better and better. That’s the essence of a growth mindset, a belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through dedication and hard work.
I learned about planting herbs and vegetables because I got my hands dirty.
I learned how to drive because I sat behind the wheel and hit the road. I was careful and made some mistakes. But I learned.
And as I have mentioned, I taught Physics. I was also given assignments to teach Chemistry, Biology, Physical Science, World History, Economics, Algebra, Geometry, and other topics I was hesitant at first (like International Law and Political Economy).
I am not mentioning this to brag. In fact, it was scary at first. But because I learned how to apply Active Learning early, I was able to help myself learn ahead and my students learn better.
Our idea about a growth mindset isn’t a new thing. Carol Dweck made it popular because it affirmed that our intelligence is not predestined. That we can work hard on it. Active learning is a good tool to develop a growth mindset.
My Lolo Pedro used to say, “Kapag gusto, may paraan. Kapag ayaw maraming dahilan”. A person with growth mindset find ways.
Active learning nurtures this mindset among employees. As they engage in different learning activities, they understand that mistakes and setbacks are part of the learning process, not the end.
If a team project doesn’t go as planned, they learn to assess the situation, identify the challenges, and come up with improved strategies.
10. It boosts teamwork and collaboration.
Notice that many of the examples I have given you involved a group of people learning together. That’s because active learning is best when people learn together.
Of course, active learning still works even when you are a solitary learning. But where’s the fun in that?
Even a solo project is best when done with others.
Active learning is like a team sport, where everyone plays a crucial role, and the success of the team depends on effective collaboration. Group tasks and projects foster a sense of teamwork and cooperation among employees.
They learn to share ideas, respect diverse viewpoints, and work together towards a common goal.
For example, in a team brainstorming session on how to motivate employees, the participants can collectively develop solutions and learn to leverage the strengths of each team member.
In my workshops, my participants always come up with novel, creative, and cost-effective ways to motivate employees. Their bosses find this one activity an immediate ROI.
Why Lectures Fail
The easiest way to train people is through lectures. All you need to get a create your slide deck and explain each one.
This is the mode most supervisors used. And we cannot blame them. Most are not trained to facilitate workshops.
But make no mistake about it though. Many corporate trainers, even those who came from popular training providers, still think that the secret is in every presentation slide.
For most of us, it is not hard to imagine our experience in a typical training session. The trainer is talking. The employees are sitting, maybe jotting down notes. The interaction is minimal. Participation is minimal. It’s a one-way street where only the trainer is actively involved.
That’s passive learning. And passive learning is not good for our brains. It is a waste of employees’ time and the company’s resources.
Passive learning has its downfalls.
For supervisors, it’s hard to know if the employees truly understand the material. They might just be nodding along, but misunderstandings could lurk beneath. And I know of many Filipinos who don’t one their supervisors to know that they don’t understand a thing. They think it is their fault.
This could lead to gaps in knowledge and affect work performance later.
For learners, passive learning can be dull. Without active engagement, information might not stick. It can be easy to lose interest or motivation, hampering their growth.
I am not one of those who can sit down in a seminar for three hours doing nothing. I jot down notes. But that’s not interesting at all.
I want to learn by doing.
For the organization, passive learning means less effective training. If employees don’t fully grasp the information, they may struggle to apply it in their roles.
This could hit productivity, efficiency, and morale.
But people will keep on doing the same thing they are familiar with than do something more effective like active learning.
Active learning is a game-changer.
It makes learning interactive and engaging. It improves understanding, memory, and skills development. It benefits everyone – the supervisors, the learners, and the organization. It leads to effective training, a competent workforce, and a confident team.
And as I promised, I will share with you my experiences.
Active Learning Bootcamp for Supervisors
Need a training boost?
I offer Active Learning Bootcamp for Supervisors.
It’s a two-day event designed for the supervisors and managers.
The goal is to equip you with active learning strategies and techniques.
Why should you join? Here’s why:
- Ignite Engagement: Make training sessions exciting and interactive. Get your team to focus. Boost productivity.
- Boost Knowledge Retention: Help your team remember crucial information. Make sure it sticks.
- Amplify Performance: Empower your team to use their knowledge. Boost their performance. See better results.
Imagine the change. Your training sessions transform. They’re no longer one-sided lectures. They’re dynamic, and engaging. Your team participates. They ask questions. They solve problems. They collaborate.
And the results? Your team understands better. They remember more. They perform better.
Ready to bring active learning to your company? Join our Bootcamp. Make the change. See the results. We’re excited to see you there!