Promoting Active Learning

All too often, students simply want to “get the work done” without recognizing that active learning is essential to building a lasting foundation for excellent work in school.  For example, in our work with students in mathematics, one of the simple, yet critical things we do is emphasize the “logic” of an answer to a problem.  We label that process with names like “the logic test” or “the smell test,” i.e. “Does that ‘smell’ like a reasonable answer?” The goal is singular: engage students beyond the simple read problem/provide answer dynamic in order to help them develop a sense of reasonableness and involve them in a way which makes them pause and reflect.  By doing this, we help students to strengthen their confidence in relying on their “gut,” and we also help them to take pause, thus better cementing the bigger lesson concepts of the problem(s) into memory.

This kind of thing can be done at home as well.  While not every parent is going to be able to help their child with the specifics of a math problem, a scientific process, or a historical movement, parents can promote student reflection on subject matter by requiring them to spend a minimum amount of time working on a topic, rather than simply requiring them to “finish his/her homework.”  A reasonable time requirement, rather than a completeness requirement, can reduce the temptation for the student to go as fast as he/she can when completing assignments and creates an atmosphere that is conducive to active learning.

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