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Active Learning

When you look up “active learning” online, you can get lost in the number of definitions this one little phrase has. This is how I understand it: “Think of the difference between a jar that's filled and a lamp that's lit. In the former case, liquid is poured into an empty vessel–an apt metaphor for the traditional educational paradigm in which students sit passively in a classroom and absorb the knowledge transmitted by an expert. A growing body of research has made it clear, however, that the overall quality of teaching and learning is improved when students have ample opportunities to clarify, question, apply, and consolidate new knowledge. In this case, instructors create opportunities for students to engage new material, serving as guides to help them understand and apply information. They help "light the lamp" of student learning.” (
In other words, active learning means actively seeking new knowledge through the forms of questions, discussion, reading, etc. In a traditional classroom setting, the teacher is thought to be the source of the information. Active learning would turn the teacher into a facilitator. He or she would promote discussions and push the students to arrive at their own conclusions. It also ties with real life experiences. To tie it with my experiences here, the first part is just being in a new environment. I’m forced to figure things out by trial and error, observation, and research. By looking into the culture around me, I can draw conclusions. My classes here have really pushed this form of learning in several ways. In one class, each time we have a field trip we have to share our thoughts on the visit. In other classes, active learning comes in the form of presentations.
All in all, I think the point of active learning is to keep people from being one sided. My mom always used to tell me that I had to play piano and sports so I wouldn’t be a one-sided individual, and this is very much the same. If I was only ever taught to listen, I wouldn’t be able to perform analyses or interact in a satisfactory manner. And I definitely would not be able to thrive in this new environment. Being surrounded by a new culture and language forces me to use the skills that I have acquired from active learning in previous years.
-Nadine Merheb, CEA MOJO Barcelona

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