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Taking a Deeper Dive Into Active Learning

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD

Faculty Focus

Article excerpt

Active Learning: In Need of Deeper Exploration

What level of involvement or how many active learning events does it take before the effects start showing up in exam scores or in other measurable ways? This moves us to the thorny issue of measuring active learning.

Our take

They May Be Engaged, But Are They Learning?

Active learning is a broad concept that has gotten much attention lately as educators seek to better engage students in the learning process. Rather than classroom settings where students sit and listen and teachers talk, active learning gets students involved in the process. There’s a general sense that active learning is a good thing. But, can that sense be supported through the actual measurement of learning? Not yet, according to this author, but it’s an issue worthy of more attention.

Generally, teachers measure engagement, or form opinions about whether active learning is occurring, based on individual or collective student response. But that doesn’t measure effectiveness. Neither does tallying up the number of group projects or presentations students have been involved in. These activities may provide value, but the effectiveness in terms of learning outcomes can’t be gauged simply by counting them. More work must be done to determine the specific efficacy of these varied efforts—individually and relative to other forms of learning.