What is active learning?

As I sat in my classes during college, I noticed that some students were just faster learners than me, and I struggled to understand why I couldn’t “get it” as well as they could.

In other classes, I was the fast learner and I struggled to understand why my classmates weren’t keeping up.

Certainly, a natural ability to learn is a fundamental component; some people are just better at understanding math or science or language or whatever. But there’s another key that is really important; even in the classes I most struggled to grasp the concepts (science, especially), I found I could excel in the course if I did a couple of things:

  1. Read ahead: if the instructor provided me the chapter we were covering, that meant I should have read it before I came to class (I also better understood their language!)
  2. Look at assignments in advance: If the instructor provided an assignment description or instructions, I wanted to go over it before the instructor covered it
  3. Take notes when reading: Mark up the book as much as you need; it’s a resource for you to enhance your learning, not a showpiece
  4. Create a note-sharing system: Talk to other classmates who take good notes and create a note-sharing agreement (see study group)
  5. Set up a study group: Meet with classmates about once a week to share notes, discuss concepts, review ideas, or practice materials from the class

Learning, as I said in my last post, is an ongoing and dynamic process. Those who get the most from class are the ones who actively engage in the material.

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