Active learning has been an established term among pedagogical approaches. However, at VMS, active learning is adopted as a variance of the generally recognized “active learning” concept. More specifically, it is used here as a tool that hopefully will unlock the limitation posed by the centralized lecturing method.
Student (the learner) is expected to be the active part of the learning process. Essentially, each student is encouraged to acquire the knowledge and skills through the process that he/she has control over the timing of each learning activity. Consequently, teacher/professor no longer directly controls the timing of each student’s learning but takes the more responsive role, the somehow passive one. He/she is no longer the centre of interest in the class and will minimize the need to conduct the entire class.
On class preparation, teacher/processor has to prepare adequate resources as well as steps of learning missions that each student can manage to go through with his/her own effective learning rate. Then the class time will be mainly utilized for inducing and supporting the learning in each student.
Readers may notice now that the word “student” in this article is always in a singular form. It reflects the objective of the active learning pedagogy at VMS that learning is treated in the level of “individual” process rather than in a “collective” level like in the typical lecture class. In short, the goal of the active learning class is for the teacher/professor to guide each individual student to learn at the most fruitful pace that he/she can.
Will a little bit of teacher-centred teaching help making this active learning more complete? Let’s not rule out the possibility. But ultimately, such teaching will only be useful when it is needed by a group of students who are ready to learn a topic that way.
This is not a pedagogical method for any teacher/professor who believes that he/she has been successful at lecturing, or believes that students have learned substantially from what he/she presented in the class. However, while most teachers hope that their lectures are an exception of the low learning rate phenomenal, the truth is that most are not. On the other hand, teacher/professor who seeks to break out of such limitation is a prime candidate to try out active learning.
The flipped classroom can be conducted in the same classroom that VMS arranges for active learning. However, there are fundamental differences between active learning and the flipped classroom. The goal of active learning is still the “learning”, not just the “problem-solving skills”. Knowledge contents are learned in the active learning class, whether through the problem-oriented or content-oriented scheme, while they are self-learned before coming to the problem-based session in the flipped classroom. Teacher/professor may be a little more adaptive in adopting methods that fit his/her objective.
In this article, the feedback from five subjects that had utilized the VMS Active Learning classrooms for half a semester is reported as a summary. As the response, the feedback is analyzed and possible future adjustments are proposed.
Noticeable improvement over typical lecture class
- more cooperation among students towards learning together
- more participation of students in the learning activities
- more interaction within small groups
- more interaction between teacher and students
- particularly benefits students with a strong theoretical background
- more practice, resulting in better-developed skills
- challenging/interesting learning activities
Next is about the improvements gained over typical lecture class. In short, all the 7 mentioned advantages are in-line with the principles behind VMS Active Learning pedagogy. Most teachers who provided the feedback have just adopted the concept for less than half a year. In a sense, learning to teach in this mode is what they will take time to “learn actively” in a decentralized way as well.