Active Learning: Key To Student Success

TGSG Note: I am thrilled to have Glenn Fay, a gifted and dedicated educator guest posting at TGSG today. Active learning is a passion of mine, and I am pleased to share Glenn’s thoughts on the subject with you. Without a doubt, education reform is one of the key components to restoring childhood, which is what this blog is all about. Enjoy the post. I know I did!

See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

Active learning should be at the heart of kids’ learning. Plenty of research over the past 40 years promotes what is known as constructivist learning, where students are doing and thinking, not just passively listening. William Glasser’s Choice Theory showed that with motivated and reluctant learners alike, kids will be actively engaged in learning when they have power, love, belonging, freedom and fun. These don’t sound like words that describe the classrooms that I knew growing up in New England! In fact, they are often very different than the traditional teacher-directed learning that so many of us are familiar with in the public schools.

Another proponent of active learning is Howard Gardner. Gardner’s 8 Multiple Intelligences include using kids’ innate abilities for spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, interpersonal and naturalistic learning. Although these intelligences are not mainstream, perhaps because education systems are slow to change, veteran educators know that kids love activities that value these intelligences, especially since all kids have innate gifts in some of them, that are not often validated in public schools.

Bernice McCarthy offers another slightly different take on how kids learn. McCathy’s Learning Styles focus on different ways kids tend to learn, and classifies kids as innovative, analytic, common sense and dynamic learners. In particular, innovative learners are looking for personal meaning, common sense learners need to try it themselves and dynamic learners are interested in self-directed discovery. All of these very well-respected learning and intelligence theories share a common belief that for many kids, learning needs to be active, and kids are more engaged when they are active participants rather than passive observers in the learning process.

Even though educators compete with the evolving pop culture, hormones, the products du jour, chat, i-products and other sometimes seemingly distracting media, our kids want to be successful. In fact, I never met a student who did not want to be successful. However,  I have known many kids who did not want to be subjected to learning experiences that didn’t match his or her needs, interest or personal learning profile.

What does this mean for parents and educators? First we need to assess how each student learns and what natural intelligences they have. Then we need to allow them to thrive by letting them use their gifted intelligences and  learning styles, give them open-ended learning opportunities and real-life problems and challenges to solve whenever possible. When we do that, we will see more of our  kids who are engaged in learning because they see a connection to their personal attributes and lives. And we will see a higher success rate in our schools and in our society.

Guest Blogger Bio: Glenn Fay, Ed.D. teaches science by day and blogs “green” at his website Oakleigh Vermont during the other 16 hours each day. He is committed to finding ways for all students to learn and become active participants in their world. Follow Glenn on Twitter.

Image Credit: Brass Tacks UK, Flickr

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