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Why Active Learning is Better Than Lecture-Based Learning

There is a debate in education about which teaching methods are better than others. Some teachers and professors believe that lecture-based classrooms are the way to go. However, many studies now suggest that active learning is actually better for the students and even helps the educator to better themselves. Active learning is a method of learning that engages students in activities to learn the material given to them instead of simply sitting there and listening to the teacher talk.

Although active learning is becoming quite popular, there are still some people who believe that lecture-based learning is better. For example, in the article “Lecture Me. Really.” by Molly Worthen, Worthen states that “In the humanities, there are sound reasons for sticking with the traditional model of the large lecture course combined with small weekly discussion sections. Lectures are essential for teaching the humanities’ most basic skills: comprehension and reasoning, skills whose value extends beyond the classroom to the essential demands of working life and citizenship” (Worthen). Although Worthen may have found lecture-based learning effective there are lots of students who disagree. The lecture-based learning method is not effective for all students, only some students can succeed with this method.

In his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, Freire talks about alternative methods of teaching. Freire talks about the banking method in his book and how it is not the best way for students to learn. Freire states that “education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor”(Freire). Freire argues that all the teacher is doing in the banking method is simply throwing information at the students without letting them think for themselves. This causes the students to have no other option but to believe this information. Freire then states, “It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world” (Freire). The banking method does not allow the students to question what they are being taught. All the banking method does is provide information from the teacher and expect students to believe what they are being told without questioning. Freire later talks about problem-posing education, which he expresses to be the new way of learning and how learning should be. Freire states “The teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration, and re-considers her earlier considerations as the students express their own. The role of the problem-posing educator is to create; together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa is superseded by the knowledge, at the level of the logos”. The teacher in this situation is giving the class information but allows the students to discuss among themselves how they understand the material. There should be more classrooms using the problem-posing method and fewer classrooms using the banking method.

Some colleges and universities are doing whatever it takes to get their teachers to change their classrooms from lecture to active learning. Purdue University has a program dedicated to helping teachers make the classroom more of an active environment. Pamela V. Morris, a professor at Purdue, describes the Impact program, which is “a program designed to help Purdue faculty members build more-active and engaged classrooms. It promised regular meetings at which groups of instructors would hear from technology and curricular-design experts study research on effective learning, share stories, and test out new ways of teaching”. The meetings with other professors who are going through the same change as one another is similar to the experiences the students will be going through while learning in an active classroom. They will all come together and share their ideas, then test them in the classroom. With this program, Purdue has had much success. The article “How Purdue Professors Are Building More Active and Engaged Classrooms” states “According to a recent outside evaluation, Impact-affected courses generally have higher end-of-course final grades and fewer students who withdraw or earn Ds and Fs. Students and faculty members report greater satisfaction and more active engagement in such courses. Faculty members also say that students are more likely to use effective study habits and demonstrate critical thinking compared with students in other courses”. In other words, active learning is helping students to not only learn the material better, but it is helping them to understand the material that is being given to them. From this, it is obvious that active learning is positively impacting the way students are studying, causing them to ditch their old ways of studying and use more effective methods. Impact (the program at Purdue University) has made a difference in the way most of those students learn.  

Active learning is helping to improve students understanding of even the simplest of things. The number of educators who are choosing to use active learning in their classrooms is constantly increasing. Active learning is overall an effective method because it allows students to engage in activities and think for themselves without the teachers throwing information at them. It has proven to be so helpful in many ways however,  people still argue that lecture-based learning is more effective.


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