Facilitating Active Learning among Adult Learners

Facilitating Active Learning among Adult Learners

Chinmoy Sahu (U21Global Graduate School, Singapore)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4249-2.ch033
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A learner-centric approach to learning is widely known as active learning. This approach helps learners to develop higher order thinking skills and therefore facilitates deep learning. On the other hand, passive learning approach expects learners to receive information from the professor passively without much involvement in the learning process. This chapter aims to lead the readers to appreciate the role of active learning in positively influencing the process of learning among adult learners. The chapter begins by setting the context through a review of relevant literature on active learning. The subsequent discussions are structured around the four approaches to achieve active learning, namely, experiential learning, problem-based learning, participative learning, and cooperative learning. The discussions provide insights on how technological intervention is shaping each of these four approaches to facilitate active learning. While the chapter does not aim to present an exhaustive list of all possible technological interventions, the idea is to stimulate further thoughts on new possibilities in this direction. The chapter also discusses trends like the proliferation of Web 2.0 technologies, computing devices becoming increasingly portable, popularity of MOOCs, and eLearning that have the potential to positively influence active learning among adult learners.
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An approach to teaching where learners are expected to passively receive information from the professor and internalize it through memory oriented techniques is regarded as passive learning approach as conveyed in existing literature such as in Stewart-Wingfield & Black (2005) and McManus (2001). Passive learning environments generally tend to merely transfer the knowledge from the professor’s mind to the learners’ minds. The centre of activities in a passive learning environment is the professor delivering the lecture, not the learner. As a result, the transfer of knowledge seldom leads to creation of new knowledge or even application of existing knowledge in a fresh context. The inherent weakness in passive learning environment lent prominence to what is called the facilitation theory.

Facilitation theory proposes that the professor should only act as a facilitator, thus making the environment less professor centric and more learner centric. The learner centric environment is in contrast to the professor being the proverbial “sage on the stage” under the passive learning environment. Thus, the focus on learner's involvement in the education process assumes more significance. Facilitation creates an environment that is conducive for learners to explore and share their ideas without bothering about external factors. Professors, as facilitators, should be open to others' beliefs, be able to listen to learners’ opinions, and be able to accept creative ideas. Such a learning facilitation ensures an active learning environment which involves a learner centric approach, shifting the focus from teaching to learning.

Bonwell and Eison (1991) are widely credited with popularising the concept of active learning. The central idea behind active learning concept is to involve the learner in the learning process to maximize its effectiveness. For instance, creating a case for active learning, Lamont and Friedman (1997) note the role of interactive classroom teaching in increasing the opinion and ideas exchanged between students. Research (Chernay, 2008; Graffam, 2007) across a range of disciplines seems to build a consensus that to be actively involved, learners require higher order thinking including analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The active learner involvement should help in ensuring a deep learning experience for learners. As opposed to surface learning, deep learning is known to enable learners to form a wider perspective over the subject. Similarly, Kirby et al. (2003) suggested possibilities such as better integration of new knowledge with previous knowledge and synthesis of new material to make appropriate connections as features of deep learning. Thus, learners who experience deep learning tend to seek meaning and understanding from the subject that may stretch beyond the minimum academic requirements. On the other hand, learners who experience only surface learning may be solely motivated to meet the minimum academic requirements and generally put just enough effort to avoid failing.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Discussion Boards: Online bulletin boards which are often threaded to facilitate organize discussions.

Cooperative Learning: Learners collaborate with peers to achieve the learning objectives.

Learner Centric: Learning activities are centred on the learner.

Web 2.0: Internet-based platform, which facilitates peer to peer collaboration among users.

Google+: A social networking service, which uses the concept of circles.

Cloud Computing: Use of application and data maintained centrally on the Internet but accessible from anywhere through Internet connectivity.

Collaboration: Working together to achieve a common objective.

Information: Knowledge concerning a fact, phenomenon, or circumstance.

Voice over Internet Protocol: Transmits voice over the Internet data network.

Facebook: A popular social networking service which uses concepts like friends, likes, and comments.

Passive Learning: Learner passively receives instructions.

Blog: Publication space on the Internet to express one’s opinions, thoughts, or ideas.

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): Offering mostly free eLearning opportunities to any learner having access to Internet.

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