Large lecture classes: Student feedback shows that small group work is useful for challenging and deepening their understandings through engagement with other students. Active learning strategies should be planned with clear directions and streamlined into course content and not added as extra activity to ensure that students have sufficient time to engage and debrief their experiences. Read more Yazedjian & Kolkhorst (2007).
E-learning requires students to actively participate and to engage with high levels of discipline, control and motivation. Various activities and tools like simulations, group research projects, discussion forums, chat and group functions and wikis can encourage students to engage and reflect on their learning. As students will develop independent learning behavior over time, a full range of e-learning tools is best introduced incrementally to ensure students are better prepared to engage more fully and actively. Read more Cullen & Harris (2009).
What you should think about when implementing Active and Self-directed learning in your teaching
Answer Yes to these
Teaching philosophy: I believe in student-centred learning. I think about the contribution I am making to the development of students skills and capabilities for their future professional lives.
Pedagogies: Active and self-directed learning approaches which characteristically emphasize constructivist learning suit my teaching.
Curriculum: There are specific learning outcomes I wish my students to have in my course.
Tools for learning: I can motivate my students to adopt active and self-directed learning strategies. I can incorporate active and self-directed learning into my course.
Commitment: I can identify an ‘active or self-directed learning’ champion who will support innovative practice.
Why is it important?
The aims of higher education are many but importantly include that students undergo conceptual change in their thinking and understanding of self as well as acquire disciplinary information and content (Biggs, 2003).
Learning is not a spectator activity. Learning is more effective when students are actively involved and they have opportunities to talk about, write about and apply what they have learnt to their daily lives (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). Students should therefore ideally be supported in their learning to actively engage in higher level cognitive processes such as relating, applying and theorizing so that they can construct new knowledge and make what they learn a part of themselves (Biggs. 2003; Chickering & Gamson, 1987).
Learning in higher education is also about encouraging students to be self-directed so that they can determine their own learning needs, set learning goals, take action to meet necessary requirements and evaluate their work for both their immediate responsibilities as students and future circumstances as professionals (Biggs, 2003).
What is it and how does it support learning? What does recent research say?
Active learning can involve active participation in a planned activity, an analysis of and reflection on what has been experienced and learnt, and the application of principles that have been learned in real life situations (Smart & Csapo, 2007).
Also referred to in the literature as interactive instruction, experiential learning, or “learning by doing” (Smart & Csapo, 2007), common forms of active learning include collaborative, cooperative and problem-based learning (Prince, 2004).
There is broad support in the literature for the effectiveness of active learning approaches (Prince, 2004). Active learning can enhance student interest and motivation, increase student responsibility for learning as well as foster the development of important professional and interpersonal capabilities (Nicol & Macfarlane, 2006, Prince, 2004).
By modeling study skills and ‘how to learn’ strategies such as time and space management along with providing guidance in specific academic skills such as reading, note-taking and writing, academics and teachers can support students to develop independence as learners (Biggs, 2003). Formative assessment approaches that incorporate feedback from a range of sources, including peers, self and teachers can help students to regulate their thinking, motivation and behavior during learning (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006).
As well as citing instructions for designing embedded self-regulatory support for students in courses (Ley & Young, 2001), recent research shows that problem-based learning (Hung, 2009) and e-learning environments (Vovides, Sanchez-Alonso, Mitropoulou & Nickmans, 2007) can, when appropriately implemented, effectively support the development of self-directed learning abilities.