Wed. May 29th, 2024
Engaging Today's Students in Active Learning (Part 2)

In the first part of this series, we discussed how teachers and administrators struggle to apply new technologies and updated processes to address the motivational challenges that prevent students from engaging in the learning process. As we go on, we’ll look at the complexities in students’ lives that affect their participation in the classroom.

Dis- identification with the school: Weak and unmotivated high school students display a tremendous lack of familiarity with the school. To determine this, students need to understand a sense of belonging, of being a valued member of the school environment, and that school is a valuable component of their personal lives. Students who do not feel accepted tend to lack motivation to actively participate in the learning process, and worse, tend to develop attitudes of anger and hostility towards teachers and classmates. In contrast, students who identify positively with school (those who experience feelings of belonging, feelings of accomplishment, and are able to relate the school environment to their personal lives), are found to participate in active learning more easily.

It is important to note that feelings of recognizing or not recognizing high school students in the learning process is a cyclical experience; Which once it starts moving is likely to reinforce itself over time. Students may show interest in school and school-related experiences when they receive positive results (such as good grades, high grades, and popularity from teachers).

Understanding that a student’s affiliation contributes to the learning process asks teachers and administrators to investigate how different learning styles apply in the classroom.

Learning styles: Teachers and students alike face the repercussions associated with a generation that grew up in a high-tech society. Students today are faced with tremendous advances in special effects and multimedia; These students are deeply addicted to instant gratification. Teachers must capture their attention and then stimulate meaningful learning to maintain that interest. Teachers need to take a proactive approach to including all students in the learning process by changing curricula to accommodate a range of learning styles. Some research determines that ideally, teachers adapt their teaching style to their students’ learning styles. On the contrary, some researchers have concluded that students should adapt their own learning style to the teachers’ curriculum. Probably the combination of the two (the ability to collaborate between teacher and student) is the greatest value. Although there is a wide variety of learning styles, by the time they reach high school, most students develop a preferred style, perhaps by habit or perhaps hereditary. Regardless, many students find a habit or pattern that works for them and often become slavishly dependent on that one pattern.

Encouraging students to experiment with ideas and theories allows them to learn from mistakes while exposing students to other paths of learning. It is important to guide students, protect them from frustration, and reassure them that experimenting with new forms of learning provides them with more tools to put into their academic toolbox. This toolbox is the body of knowledge, skills, and abilities that individual students acquire over the course of their lives and are available to draw upon when critical thinking or problem-solving skills are needed. To fill this toolbox, students need experience; They need to learn from their mistakes. This means creating an environment where mistakes are not only tolerated, but encouraged. The term active learning emphasizes a focus on the students as learners rather than on the teachers themselves as teachers. The concept is less about embracing new educational technologies and more about reminding teachers to focus on the students themselves; This is student centered learning.

Students develop processing preferences over time; Basically we all “feel and think and reflect and do, but we stay in different places along the way.” Thus, our learning style is determined. Left-brain learners tend to be analytical and logical, while right-brain learners tend to be intuitive, creative, and imaginative. The importance of educators understanding this concept lies in learning about student biases and adapting the classroom environment to accommodate the diverse needs of learners.

In Part 3, we will look beyond the barriers and examine strategies that will encourage a shift from passive to active learning.

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