Active learning: benefits and challenges

Active learning includes various teaching strategies that engage students in participating in class and collaborating with peers. Recent research on active learning highlighted that using active methods of teaching can boost learning significantly.

According to Felder and Brent, applying five or ten minutes of active learning in a fifty-minute class can foster students’ learning process. They explained that through collaboration weak students can get help from stronger students, and stronger students can get a deep understanding from teaching something to someone else. Another study, conducted by Knight and Wood (2005) took a large Biology lecture course as a sample. Students were divided into two groups: the first group was taught using a traditional format of teaching, while the second group was taught using active learning methods. The results of the study showed that such methods as in-class activities instead of lecturing whole time, collaborative work, group discussions increased learning gains and a better understanding of topic or theme.

However, there are some challenges that may interfere the use of active learning methods in class. The first obstacle is time. Using in-class activities may reduce the lecture time. Rowe ( as cited in Konopka, Adaime & Mosele, 2015) suggested that students’ learning during lectures can be enhanced if a teacher pauses for three times, three minutes per pause making approximately ten minutes than having a student-to-student interaction between lectures. As the result of his study, the student test performance rose. The second obstacle is the large class size that may prevent the use of in-class discussions. The third obstacle is a lack of materials or even equipment. Some types of active learning strategies may require the use of technology. Rowe also stated that students criticized textbooks for not offering practical examples of active learning methods.

Personally, I think that applying active learning in class should be produced in a balanced way. What do you think about it?

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6 thoughts on “Active learning: benefits and challenges

  1. Dear Maira, thank you for your post. I found it very useful and informative. However, there are several points I would like you to elaborate more. What is, in your opinion, a balanced way of active learning? And what do you mean under active learning? As far as I undersand active learning is conducting various activities such as games, icebreakers, short quizes, competitions etc. The variety of such activities is so huge that the obstacles you described can be easily avoided. For example, in order to solve issues of time and technology teacher can choose 5-10 minutes long, let’s say, vocabulary game, which does not need an electronical device to be used.

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  2. Dear Maira, thanks a lot for this informative blog. I definitely agree that particular the time is the obstacle of applying active learning during the lesson. 45 minutes of the lesson is too little for combining active and standard type of the lesson. How to cope with this problem from your personal experience as a teacher? Does the part of active learning time vary due to the grade or other factors? Thank you in advance.

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  3. Dear maira1291, thanks for raising this interesting topic. I agree with the results of studies you have mentioned above that using different activities can engage students to participate in learning process more actively. Even from my own experience I know that for many of my students that times were the most likely ones. However, I do not agree with obstacles that you have described, for example, regarding the time, it is obvious fact that students’ acceptance ability for new information is limited, some studies say that it is no more than 15-20 minutes. That is why I think it is very important to use active learning during the lesson.

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  4. Dear @maira1291, thank you for raising an important issue, which is , unfortunately, being neglected in our education system. As for me, active learning can be easily applied to our educational practices, but the main challenge is the desire and competence of a teacher, since in most cases they associate it as an additional amount of work. In this regard, I believe that the solution for the challenges that you indicated on your post directly depends on the qualification of a teacher.

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    1. Dear @makha09,

      Thank you for your comment. I definitely agree with you that teacher qualification or teacher experience is important here. I haven’t raised this question. Incorporating active learning into a curriculum and transforming a classroom into an exciting and dynamic learning environment depends on teacher actions. As for me, active learning is a part of lesson planning. And it should be organized in a meaningful way.

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  5. Nice work, Maira. (5/5) Your post is thoughtful and well-researched. You come across as a confident, informed writer who can clearly and concisely explain a complex topic.

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