Monday, July 03, 2006

Tactics you can use to make you into an active learner

Learning is an active, not a passive activity. Learners take part in their lessons, even when they are listening to the teacher – especially then. Merely letting the teacher’s words wash over you, hoping you will ‘take on board’ something from what you hear is not being an active learner.

Here are some of the things you can do to help you start becoming more active in your learning.

1. Summarize – put into your own words what the teacher or another student has said
Being able to summarize (shorten and put into your own words) what has been said in the lesson is a useful skill to learn. It will help you when you come to take notes in a lecture.

2. Elaborate on what they have said
When you have heard something – use it to go further – think about the implications of what has been said.

3. Relate the content of what has been said to your own knowledge or experience
Always try to connect what you have been told to your own world- to your knowledge or your experience of the world.

4. Give examples to clarify or support what has been said
If you can provide concrete examples of what you are learning, everything will become clearer in your mind.

5. Make connections between concepts
Nothing happens in isolation, and you should be able to connect one set of ideas with others – don’t wait to be told what to think.

6. Put the instructions or assignments into your own words
Understanding what you are meant to do is made easier if you put the instructions you are given into your own words – simplify the language that has been used in your assignment – check later to make sure you are on the right track.

7. State the question
Say the question over and over – can you formulate it in different ways to get more insight into what is needed to more fully understand what you are being asked to provide an answer to.

8. Say how your own point of view differs from that of your teacher or other learners
It is not uncommon amongst learners to want to give the teacher back what they think she wants to hear – develop your own point of view and try it out on others in the classroom – even if you sometimes differ or seem to have got it wrong, you will learn more about the way you think – it is worth doing.

9. Write down notes about any of the above
Being an active learner is always made easier by being physically and mentally active – take notes and read them later, adding to them from what you remember and from what you now think.

10. Write down any important, relevant questions you can think of
Questions will readily spring to mind the more you participate actively in your lessons – an active learner has more questions to ask than a learner who is not as actively engaged in the lesson.

11. Discuss any related issues or questions with a partner and then discuss them in groups
Lastly, discussing the lesson with other learners is in itself a valuable addition to the lesson – it will stimulate further thoughts and give you the confidence to openly say what you think – learning isn’t just about passing examinations – its becoming a changed person, and talking will change you.

The last word
Too many students seem content to sit passively and hope that what they catch will come up in the examination. Taking part in lessons in this way is boring, unproductive and ultimately not enjoyable. Being a student at university should be the most exciting time in your life to date. Being active and using your energy is the best way of making it very enjoyable and helping g you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to change your life for the better.

Robert L. Fielding


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