How Active Learning Can Make a Difference

How Active Learning Can Make a Difference

Teresa Dieguez, Paula Loureiro, Isabel Ferreira
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2708-5.ch022
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The aim of active learning is to provide opportunities for learners to think critically about content through a range of activities that help prepare learners for the challenges of professional situations. This chapter aims to present and describe some active learning strategies implemented by the authors, teachers at the Management School of Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave (IPCA), in Portugal. The expected result of this article is sharing successful case studies in Higher Education Institutions.
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Nowadays we are at the beginning of a new industrial revolution, the so called Fourth Industrial Revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another. Instead of previous industrial revolutions who liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people, this Fourth Industrial Revolution gather a range of new technologies that are melting the physical, biological and digital worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human (Moavenzadeh, 2015). The impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will also be reflected on economic, legal, regulatory, and socio-political questions, demanding proactive roles from government policies and institutions at local, national and global levels.

A changing educational paradigm is needed (Tomozii & Topalăa, 2014) and Higher Education can have an important role in this process, by providing a culture of active learning that allows leverage the students activity through the development of new and creative ideas, actions, roles and projects. In fact, through meaningful activities, students think about and apply what they are learning. It is a deliberate contrast against passive learning (Pelley, 2014).

The indispensable societal role of universities is defined by their function as educators of critical, creative thinkers capable of making a contribution and an impact in an ever-changing and “super complex” (Barnett, 2000), world. Graduates should furthermore embrace lifelong learning and see universities as a given option for continuous education (Hunt, 2011). This requires, however, that learning in the 21st century develop into an active process. Traditional approaches to learning, mainly manifested through lectures, are not sufficiently effective in promoting ownership and application of knowledge, key to the development of understanding, but rather supporting the passive absorption of content (Bligh, 1972). If individuals are to consider themselves life-long and life-wide learners, there can be no power differential between teacher and student. Active learning can provide a valuable contribution to implementing a cooperative institutional vision of learning and teaching in higher education, which educates active, well educated, well-rounded and responsible, global citizens (EFFECT, 2018). In doing so, universities observe their third mission and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals: in particular no. 4, Quality Education, but they contribute also to the other Sustainable Development Goals indirectly, through citizens that contribute to an open, inclusive, democratic and knowledge and evidence-based society. Active learning is a key approach to achieving this goal, since it is based on an involvement of all stakeholders in higher education. An argument against active learning is the (perceived) cost effectiveness of traditional lectures. However, active learning has financial advantages as well, as any space can be used as a learning space. Furthermore, the outcome of active learning, i.e. enhanced, more student-centred learning, entails benefits that should outweigh concerns over the financial input associated with active learning. This is an aspect to be considered, especially in view of the challenges posed to universities by alternative models of education, raising questions regarding the continued societal relevance of universities. Active learning is a way to develop uniquely human skills, which are becoming ever more relevant to both employers and societies. Establishing active learning across universities – as an approach used alongside lectures – would thus help to preserve universities’ unique role as educators of active citizens and professionals fit for today’s and tomorrow’s societies.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Understanding: Is ultimately needed to help us deal successfully with the social problems facing us today.

Emotional Awareness: Refers to the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions; the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes both regulating one’s own emotions when necessary and helping others to do the same.

Active Learning: Is any approach to instruction in which all students are asked to engage in the learning process.

Proactive: taking action by causing change and not only reacting to change when it happens

Emotional Intelligence: Refers to the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.

Innovation: Is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational approach in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.

Volunteering: An altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial or social gain to benefit another person, group or organization.

Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is a desire to seek, patience to doubt, fondness to meditate, slowness to assert, readiness to consider, carefulness to dispose and set in order; and hatred for every kind of imposture.

Methodologies: A set or system of methods, principles, and rules for regulating a given discipline, As in the arts or sciences.

Soft Skills: Are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people.

Social Entrepreneurship: Is an approach by start-up companies and entrepreneurs, in which they develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.

Empathy: The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

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