Ask the Expert (Active Learning)

What Is Meant By the Term Active Learning?

In general, active learning means students engage with the material, participate in the class, and collaborate with each other. Rather than sitting passively while listening to an instructor, or doing independent heads-down work, the student may work with his or her peers, follow an interactive project-based curriculum, participate in robust discussions, or a variety of other activities, which ensure the student is immersed in the subject at hand.

Researchers have found that the more students are engaged, the greater their progress and retention. When teachers utilize active learning, they often find their pupils display a deeper understanding of the course material. What’s more, today’s Millennial and Generation Z students prefer the more dynamic environment which active learning provides.

In active learning spaces, the teacher may choose to engage the students further by allowing them choices: the choice of tasks to focus on, peers to work with, or where to work within the classroom, and even outside of the classroom, such as in a corridor or other space in the building.

In addition to providing choices, active learning classrooms are most effective when the furnishings are flexible, mobile, and able to support whatever activity is taking place in the space at that time. Ideally, the teacher or students can rearrange the room without help from the custodial staff.

Consider using classroom furniture that can be reconfigured easily. Also, choose chairs that enable students to interact with each other, and with the instructor. This increases the opportunity to build personal connections and social skills. Utilizing a variety of furniture types also supports personal choice and ownership, while providing a space that resonates with students at all levels.

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management October 2018 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Lisa Schmidt, LEED-AP is the director of Strategic Initiatives at National Office Furniture. She can be reached at [email protected].