Active Learning to Enhance Retention

learning pyramid

Studies have shown that the amount of information retained after a learning event decreases rapidly if not quickly applied and practiced.  Traditional teaching methods such as lecture and reading are considered passive learning.  In order to increase learning retention over time, learning professionals have to incorporate more active methods into the teaching process.    Collaborative discussion, hands-on practice and teaching others are the most effective ways of ensuring that learning and knowledge is retained.

Having participated in both forms of learning over my adult life, I concur that active methods of teaching are more effective.    I remember sitting through two and a half hour lectures in college, taking copious notes, outlining chapters in textbooks, memorizing information and taking test after test.   There were also classes that required extensive writing and research papers to be shared with and commented on by the professor only.  Classroom discussions were directed by the professor and idea and thought sharing were limited.  Group projects were an attempt at active learning where group members had an opportunity to explore an assigned topic as a group and discover more about the topic and share it with the professor–sometimes with the rest of the class through presentations.  It was also an opportunity to learn about communication, team dynamics and working with others.

Social media has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for active teaching and learning.  Traditional methods of teaching have been enhanced by social media.  Educators now have the ability to engage learners more through online discussions, hands on practice exercises, and collaborative exercises.   The Internet provides easy  access to information once only available by a visit to the library.  There are a plethora of Web tools available to compliment and enhance teaching and learning.   Learners can now learn from each other through online interactions.  Learners can gain a deeper understanding of subject matter through online journaling and blogging.  Through reflection, they apply concepts to their own life experiences and by sharing with others discover additional applications.

Educators who are able to effectively engage learners through active teaching methodologies will deliver a deeper understanding of the subject matter and enhance learning retention.  Learners will be able to apply and transfer knowledge to their jobs and everyday lives and ultimately teach others what they have learned.