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Techniques For Active Learning

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Tasks achieved through a direct, hands-on approach involve active learning techniques. For example, participants might work together to solve a real-life problem related to the training; or practice using newly learned skills in a simulated environment.

Lots of practice creates "muscle memory" and preferably is accompanied by best practices. While this may seem simplistic, this is active learning at work. And this simple technique is actually one of the most successful training approaches you can employ when you're looking for performance-based results.

What is Active Learning?

Active Learning is learning that involves participation of the learner. This type of learning happens when students have an interactive relationship with the course subject matter, allowing them to work actively to generate information instead of passively receiving information. Active learners are involved in their learning (i.e. they want to learn). This makes them much more successful and optimistic about their ability to learn more.

Motivation is Key

As you probably already know, motivation is a key factor in adult learning. So what is it about active learning that influences motivation and improves mastery and recall? As it turns out, this technique fits perfectly with a number of key adult learning principles: readiness, experience, autonomy and action.

  • Readiness: adults must see the benefits of what they are learning and have an open mind

  • Experience: adults learn best when the content and activities integrate with what they already know

  • Autonomy: adults must participate in and contribute to their learning

  • Action: adults must see how they can apply what they have learned immediately

Think about it: the hands-on work in active learning naturally promotes a reliance on experience and action, while the internal and external feedback learners receive after performing a hands-on task promotes further autonomy. It's a win-win situation for learners, who learn through practical application of their skills and experience the feel-good vibes that come from personal accomplishment.

Getting Started

How can you incorporate active learning techniques into your current training?

You can begin by examining the goals of the training as well as the class size. Then, simply choose an active learning strategy that fits. After gaining some experience retrofitting your old lectures with active learning, many of the new techniques will become second nature. The good news is that some of the best active learning ideas require the least production effort. It only requires planning.

Address Learner Needs and Stay Flexible

The key to using active learning is to incorporate techniques that address adult learner needs while keeping learners engaged and primed for more. Above all, be flexible. If the class grows or shrinks in size, make sure that you adapt your active learning approach. For example, if your learners are a mix of knowledgeable pros and newbies, ensure that the active learning activities you use are challenging to both learner groups. With a little forethought and planning to leverage your learners' strengths, you'll be on your way to training smarter.

Various Active Learning Techniques

Some of the most effective techniques for active learning you can do in your classroom or online training are quicker and easier to implement than you might think. This article has dozens of ideas you can try.

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