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Active learning techniques encourage students to get involved in the learning process, and participate on a regular basis in the classroom in order to facilitate learning. Rather than simply sitting back in their seats and listening to the lecture, active learning gets them involved in the process, making it more likely that they will retain and apply the information learned. Some of the most common active learning techniques involve posing questions to the class, requiring students to work in partnerships and share information, and asking them to summarize what they have just learned in a one-page written assignment or a daily journal.
Though the specifics will require modification based on the age groups in class, and the topics being covered, active learning techniques can be effective for students of all ages, from elementary school to university education. Many teachers will employ these techniques right in the lecture. For instance, lecturing for a brief period of time in the class, then pausing to ask a few questions on what was just covered, and randomly calling on students to answer them requires students to be engaged and actively taking notes. Following a lecture or presentation, instructors have even more opportunities to use various types of active learning techniques.
One of the theories behind active learning is to get students to put what they have learned in their own words, and apply it to their existing knowledge and critical thinking skills. As a result, instructors will often employ cooperative learning as a method of active learning, and will put students in pairs or small groups, ask a question, and have students discuss it and settle on an answer. This may then lead to a class discussion in which all the groups must participate, thereby reinforcing the information they just learned. If possible, hands-on activities might be given as well.
Some active learning techniques can be applied independently. Students may be given a surprise quiz upon entering the class, based on the previous night's assignment. They may be asked to keep a daily journal, reflecting on what they've learned, or write a brief one-page summary of what was covered in the day's lecture, to be handed in at the end of the class. Asking students to brainstorm or pose questions to themselves about what they find unclear is not only a great way to get students to really think about the material and read more carefully, but also to give the instructor clues about what he or she needs to cover more in-depth.
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