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Active Learning vs Traditional Lecture. Which Impacts Students More?

Active Learning vs Traditional Lecture. Which Impacts Students More?

Teresa Sarrica    CPN 100    

Active Learning vs Traditional Lecture. Which Impacts Students More?

    All students are different and each have their own way of processing how they learn something new. The two main teaching and learning methods in our world today are active learning and traditional lecture. Both these methods are significant in their own way. However, what if one method is actually more beneficial for students learning? Traditional lecturing has been around for decades its something regular and known to education. However, that method is outdated. There is something more we can do to educate students with enthusiasm and interest, rather than students dreading to sit through another lecture. Instead of old time lectures where only the teacher speak and students listen. Active learning is student-centered, an open setting where students can feel the freedom to express what they know and what they want to know more about, and active learning revolves more on listening to the student, not having the student just listen. Professors should take the initiative to give students the opportunity of full communication and voice in the classroom. 

    Traditional lectures are demonstrated as the professor in front of the classroom educating students the professors way. Lectures are teacher-centered education. There are students who process information differently, whether they understand right away, or needs more depth of explaining. The classroom has the same routine where the professor obtains full control and students sit through the class whether they understand or not. Lectures tend to bore students as well and have them wander off or day dream because there is no activity going, they just have to sit, and listen. Compared to traditional lectures, active learning, is more student-centered. Professors can give students the chance to equally interact on the topic. Students are encouraged to work together and communicate with each other, rather than having to exclusively listen to just the professor talk. In the article “Lecture vs. Active Learning: Reframing the Conversation” by Mary Bart, includes a tweet regarding the teacher-centered concept of education, “Yes, the teacher has the experience and expertise, but that doesn't mean that knowledge can flow in only one direction”. This relates to how there are students who can’t process the information the professor is lecturing without having the class expand in discussion. Another quote from “Professors Shouldn’t Teach to Younger Versions of Themselves” by Rebecca Schuman, relates to the boredom and interest students have during a lecture. She states “But Worthen’s elegy to a format that bores so many students reminds me of a bad habit that too many professors have: building their teaching philosophies around younger versions of themselves, who were often more conscientious, more interested in learning, and more patient than the student staring at his phone in the back of their classrooms”. Professors not only better the understanding and interest for students, but they better their teaching with different methods involved with group work, enthusiasm and interaction. 

    A structured classroom is predictable and consists of the same routine everyday, much like a lecture. Structured classrooms has its benefits like organization, and it has its non-benefits like how its only focus is on the professor, not as much as students, and how it’s the same pattern everyday. In the article “To Lecture or Not to Lecture?” by Paul T. Corrigan, he states “Thomas sits on the front row, jotting furiously, glancing up at the board, back at the notebook. Maybe working through the concepts on his own terms. Maybe just writing things down to memorize for the test. Kayla sits a few rows back, casually working on her smartphone. Maybe taking notes. Maybe shopping for a gift for her sister. Sitting near the door, Shauna stares at the ceiling, her legs stretched out over several chairs. Maybe pondering the meaning of what’s being said. Maybe not.”. These are what students do in a structured classroom and it takes away there interest. An open classroom is focused more on the students. With this advantage of active learning, professors teach students to learn by doing and expand their creativity in class and not just listen. Again in the article “To Lecture or Not to Lecture?”, Corrigan states “…lecturing regularly and at length helps many students understand concepts, become more interested in a subject, or develop thinking skills. In those cases when we do not find lecturing to best support our purpose, we should explore other options.”.What he is trying to say is that traditional structured lectures do have their assistance to the classroom, but not always. When a lecture doesn’t help answer a students question, that’s when the professor should realize its time to try a new learning method, one less structured and more open. 

    Professors do most of the talking in the lecture. Students aren’t heard, nor interact with one another, they strictly listen and have no say, it’s important for them to learn the use of communication and synergy with other classmates and the professor as well. As professors talk through a lecture there are some students who know what key points to write down as they listen, but others struggle with what is relevant and important to jot down. PowerPoints are helpful to students during a lecture, but not so much when the depth of slide is coming out of the professors mouth. When copying notes from a powerpoint, students tend to be more focused on what they are writing from the board than to actually listen to the professor explain in advance what is on that slide. Student dialogue is key in active learning. If professors provide an open, interacting, communicating environment, then they can improve the students ability to prepare to be problem solvers with active learning methods. Having students speak rather than listen allows them to engage and express their ideas to others and educate others on a question they have or fact they know, that can even educate the professor. Student dialogue in a classroom helps students not to be afraid to share their thoughts or answer a question. Its all about contributing ideas and hearing one another. The structure of the class shifts the control of learning from teachers to the students. The students can ask questions when they have trouble with a math problem, or a research paper. Active learning gives students the opportunity to speak their voice. In the article “To Lecture or Not to Lecture” by Paul Corrigan, he makes a point regarding the voice of students, “We also should ask about what limitations we face. These include how many students we have to teach, what they already know about formulas, proofs, and shapes, and how much time, space, and materials we have available. Likewise, we should consider the implementation of whatever method or methods we use.”. This type of teaching method increases the students’ participation to present ideas and ask a question they don't understand and even for the professor to have satisfaction their student is engaging and trying to understand their material. 

    Overall, traditional lecture and active learning are about important methods and help students learn in different ways. If professors start practicing more active learning methods then students will have the ability to speak up and share ideas and thoughts. Professors and students interact equally on the focus. 



    Corrigan, Paul T. “To Lecture or Not to Lecture?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 3 Jan. 2014,

    “Lecture vs. Active Learning: Reframing the Conversation.” Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning, 16 Feb. 2018,

    Schuman, Rebecca. “Professors Shouldn't Only Teach to Younger Versions of Themselves.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 21 Oct. 2015,


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