Weve all slept in class, even the best students doze off sometimes. Why is that? Because passively sitting there and listening is really boring! Indeed, studies have shown that when material is delivered using a single method (i.e. people are passively listening), audience concentration limit is only between 10 and 20 minutes. This time frame can be even shorter for children. 

The effects of this type of learning (in class learning) is very limited: passive learning can be useful at promoting learning basic learning, like to ‘remember’ and understand, but it is not as good at promoting higher-level skills likeapply’, ‘analyse’ and ‘evaluate’.  

What is learning? What is Active Learning? 

Educational Psychologist Benjamin Bloom from Chicago University once proposed that the concept of “learning” can be divided into three domains: cognitive, sensory and affective. Today New Chapters wants to break the cognitive aspect down for you. 

Blooms taxonomy divides the cognitive domain into six phases: remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create. To understand better these phases, lets use our beloved Shakespeare as an example. 

Remember: Who’s Shakespeare? 

Understand: Compare and comment on the styles of Shakespeare and Jinyong (famous Chinese novelist). 

Application: Are Shakespeare’s written plays actually appealing on stage? 

Analyse: Learn four of Shakespeare’s plays, why are they remembered for centuries? Please give reference to your argument. 

Evaluate: What kind of gestures/lines are the most appealing on stage? Please give reason. 

Create: Compose an emotional and appealing masterpiece! 

In the above example, the first two phases can be achieved through passive learning, but the last four phases require participants to put in more effort into actually digesting and applying knowledge in different situations. This is known as“active learning. Experts propose that active learning needs to be purposeful and reflection-stimulating. Learners can gain a comprehensive understanding of the theories involved through experiencing different situations and applying these theories hands-on. This will also strengthen learners’ critical thinking skills. 

Active learning experience should include all six phases of learning mentioned above. Some examples may be participating in a well-designed war game, self-direct and act in a play, finish an independent project, etc Quality active learning experiences have the capacity to raise achievement across a range of subjects and to develop better personal and social skills. In a well-planned learning environment, children can: 

  •  Improve academic achievement
  • Provide a bridge to higher order learning
  • Develop skills and independence in a widening range of environments
  • Make learning more engaging and relevant to young people
  • Develop active citizens and stewards of the environment
  • Nurture creativity
  • Reduce behavior problems
  • Stimulate, inspire and improve motivation
  • Develop the ability to deal with uncertainty
  • Provide challenge and the opportunity to take acceptable levels of risk
  • Learn to solve a problem

Visiting beaches, mountains, farmlands, or even measuring city pollution level with an iPhone or growing a plant at home… these are all exciting experiences for children, and you dont even have to carefully plan them: sea shells that are washed ashore can give your children the joy of fossil hunting, seeing the shape of the mountain can make children understand the impact of geological movement on earth, farms can give children a basic idea of the food production process… These scenes can prompt children to learn actively and ask questions! Perhaps their questions will be so complicated and novel that parents dont know how to answer them. But exploring and learning new knowledge with children, in a patient manner, is the only way to ensure that children will have sufficient active learning skills when they grow up.