Did you know that active learning leads to higher grades and fewer failing students? Wired gets it right in a new article that points out: "When mastering an activity, there’s no substitute for the interaction and feedback that comes from practice." We've always agreed and planned our programs accordingly, but it's nice when a new study further confirms the effectiveness of our hands-on approach.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represents the largest and most comprehensive review of the effect of active learning on STEM education. According to one of its authors: “The impact of these data should be like the Surgeon General’s report on “Smoking and Health” in 1964 – they should put to rest any debate about whether active learning is more effective than lecturing.”
But what is the study's definition of active learning? "Active learning engages students in the process of learning through activities and/or discussion in class, as opposed to passively listening to an expert. It emphasizes higher-order thinking and often involves group work."
The study looked at two groups of college level students: those engaged in some form of active learning and those participating in a traditional lecture. The study revealed that students in the traditional lectures were 1.5 times more likely to fail and that they underperformed on identical exams when compared to students in the active learning environments. Yikes!
One of the study's authors sums it up best: "“[Under active learning,] students learn more, which means we’re doing our job better. They get higher grades and fail less, meaning that they are more likely to stay in STEM majors, which should help solve a major national problem.”