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Active Learning in London

March 01, 2013
With London having museums, galleries, and historical sites around every corner, it's easy to be constantly learning something new. As a student at Goldsmiths, University of London, I've been lucky enough to have courses that emphasize active learning. My first class of the semester, Shakespeare's London, showed me the type of outside learning I'd be partaking in. Walking into class I thought we'd go over the syllabus, like we typically do at my school in the U.S. When my professor told us we'd be leaving in thirty minutes, going over the syllabus quickly was my first thought. Instead, I was surprised when she said we were going to the Globe, the re-creation of Shakespeare's original theatre in London. 

When we got there, we were given a tour of the whole building as well as a impromptu acting lesson. Walking on the Globe stage, being led by a real Shakespearean actor, allowed me to learn much more than I would have if my lecturer had presented a slideshow with information on the Globe and its history. By seeing the place in person, I was able to ask more insightful questions and grasp a true sense of what the Globe would have been like during Shakespeare's time. Not to mention, seeing the Globe was an amazing opportunity in itself!

In another course of mine, Creative London, I have gone on site visits as well. One of our first visits was to the National Portrait Gallery. When we got there, our professor gave a short talk about the basics of the museum and then let us go explore it for the rest of the class. He wanted my class to discover the museum for ourselves and take away from it our own impressions. This is a huge aspect of active learning; being able to learn for yourself without other's influences. I went to every floor and was able to take away what I thought was important about each piece of artwork. 

About 15 minutes before our class ended, we met and talked about our favorite pieces and guided our classmates to a few of the works we wanted to discuss. This way, we were able to learn about the art from our peers' opinions as well. What is unique about the portrait gallery is that it is not just about the art, but about the people represented in that art, and why they were chosen to be a part of the museum's collection. Our professor said he comes to the portrait gallery to be inspired, because it houses the portraits of so many important people that made such significant, and yet so different impacts on society. Due to being able to personally experience the museum, I was able to understand this sentiment. Through being able to actively explore the museum on my own, I learned so much more than what could have been acquired in just the classroom alone.

Cailin Burke is the CEA MOJO in London for the Spring 2013 semester

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