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Professors - Using Student-Driven Learning Methods - Active Learning

Student-driven learning methods are based on the concept of active learning.
So that you better understand that term, picture a continuum.
If at one end you put active learning, what might you put at the opposite extreme--passive learning?--or is that a state that does not exist? Do lectures, video presentations, and guest speakers engender passive learning? After 15 minutes or so for most learners, does the mind typically become occupied with other thoughts? The research would indicate that it does.
For the purposes of this article, I'll define active learning as an approach selected by a professor in which the teaching and learning environment is designed for the learner to be actively engaged in the acquisition and processing of knowledge and information.
In an active learning environment, students are doing much of the work, at their own pace, to achieve their individual learning objectives.
Richard Hake (1998), a professor of physics at Indiana University, prefers a synonymous term: interactive engagement.
He says that such learning involves methods "designed in part to promote conceptual understanding through interactive engagement of students in heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually) activities which yield immediate feedback through discussion with peers and/or instructors" (p.
Although different theorists and practitioners give different definitions of this approach, those definitions commonly include having students draw on prior knowledge to make mental connections at ever-higher levels of learning.
Whatever sources you consult on the topic, and whatever differences you find among them, keep your individual conceptualization of active learning in mind as you learn more about the strategies that work.
As a professor, you have accepted the challenge of accountability for the student learning that occurs as a result of your teaching.
Student learning is paramount.
Every decision we make about how we teach and what we teach is made with the ultimate goal of fostering learning in students.
Therefore, when you strategically choose to use student-driven methods, you are deciding that, to reach the ultimate goal of student learning, (1) students will be directing the learning along a continuum that fits their abilities; (2) the primary focus will be on a unique collection of students; and (3) students will be doing the majority of the work in the classroom and classroom-related activities.
Your work comes before class when you are designing and preparing the learning experiences (and believe me when I say that it's a great deal of work to prepare for active learning experiences for students).
The operative word in the phrase active learning is the second one: learning.
According to Angelo and Cross (1993), "Learning can and often does take place without the benefit of teaching--and sometimes even in spite of it--but there is no such thing as effective teaching in the absence of learning.
Teaching without learning is just talking.
" I couldn't agree more.
As a professor in the age of accountability, you must make the extraordinary effort it often takes to ensure that students are actually learning what you are trying to teach.
Counterintuitively, sometimes it is easier to convince professors of this than it is to convince students.
But convince them we must, because students must now also acknowledge that they accept at least as much responsibility for their learning as we have.
In a compelling article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (June 4, 1999), Mark Benvennto offers the following, in response to a student had written on an evaluation, i.
, "Get up to the f-ing board -- that's what we pay you for!"
Although many students may not want to hear it, for most of them, interactive learning is the same thing as taking your medicine.
You may not like it, but it is good for you.
You will learn more by being engaged in a class rather than just listening to a lecture.
You will learn more by teaching your classmates, and asking them and the professor questions, than by just listening and answering others' questions.
You will learn more working in a group than working alone.
You will learn more if you use your mind than if you come to class simply to be entertained.
We need to upgrade students' perceptions of their responsibilities as learners.
When we are strategic teachers and they are strategic learners, the teaching/learning experience is incomparable in its efficacy.
Teaching exclusively as you have been taught may be comfortable for you, but it is often not very effective with today's students--nor is it preferable given what is now known about the brain and learning.
Wherever you are in your teaching career, you can enhance your success by developing a teaching style that regularly employs some student-directed teaching/learning methods.
You will need to experiment, analyze and reflect on your efforts.
You will also need to have regular discussions with colleagues experienced in these methods.
To begin, consider ways to promote learning both inside the classroom when the students are right there with you and outside the classroom (when the students are far away).
The primary student-directed teaching/learning methods for use inside the classroom include open discussion, learning, role-playing, case studies, and student presentations.
Methods for outside the classroom include experiential learning, fieldwork and focused study time.
Each of these areas are explored in multiple articles, books, and other resources.

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