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The Difference Between Active Learning and Lecture

The issue of active learning in favor of the outdated methodology of lectures is relevant due to the opportunities that students receive through involvement in the learning process. According to Alexander and Judy (1988), the academic performance largely depends on how efficiently the working load is distributed. As the authors remark, a domain-specific learning style aimed at developing certain skills allows achieving high results in comparison with the inefficient form of lecture teaching (Alexander & Judy, 1988). Similar ideas are supported by Angelo and Cross (1993) who argue that “teaching without learning is just talking” (p. 3). Such support for active learning contributes to working productively and involving students in the educational process due to their interest in achieving positive outcomes.

The initiative to introduce active learning instead of lectures in the teaching process is also supported by Bonwell and Eison (1991). As the authors remark, “students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers” (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p. 4). On the contrary, engaging in work through fascinating classes and encouraging activity allows developing individual interests and indicating the importance of the desire to acquire knowledge. Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (1999) share similar views and describe strategic approaches to learning in their work.

As they note, “humans are viewed as goal-directed agents who actively seek information” (Bransford et al., 1999, p. 11). This proposition allows concluding that the desire to obtain knowledge in an active way rather than through routine memorization should be encouraged. Therefore, an opportunity to introduce the modern means of learning in order to achieve the high levels of education is theoretically justified.

In order to demonstrate the success of active learning, some researchers resort to experimental methods. For instance, Felder (1996) describes his experience in the classroom for students who have chosen chemistry as their primary sphere of activity. According to the author’s findings, due to the updating of the educational process and the reorganization of the classes, a significant improvement in the performance indicators was noted (Felder, 1996). Also, Felder (1996) remarks that not only classes but also extra-curricular work has become more productive through the introduction of new ways of working, in particular, encouraging the individual activity of students and their personal initiative to prove themselves.

Freeman et al. (2014) explore other fields of knowledge, emphasizing the use of innovative teaching methods in “the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines” (p. 8410). In accordance with the authors’ study, “less than 40% of US students who enter university with an interest in STEM, and just 20% of STEM-interested underrepresented minority students, finish with a STEM degree” (Freeman et al., 2014, p. 8410). This statistics may indicate that there is not enough active work to promote these disciplines among students, and the introduction of engrossing teaching methods can at least partially solve the issue of the lack of specialists.

As one of the means to attract students’ attention and increase their motivation for learning, the game forms of education may be a good tool. Mazur (2009) considers various tasks and puzzles that can be offered to students and to develop their scope of knowledge and non-standard thinking. This approach makes it possible to examine customary things from an unconventional point of view and, at the same time, allows perfecting one’s cognitive skills.

Another alternative way proposed by Stead (2005) to evaluate learning outcomes is to use the one-minute paper. This technique, according to the author, is an effective tool to test current knowledge quickly and, most importantly, comprehensively and, at the same time, to simplify the task for both students and teachers (Stead, 2005). In general, all the described approaches to promoting active learning deserve attention, and following this principle of education with its priority over the usual lectures can be useful from different points of view.

Metacognition and Learning

A metacognitive approach in the learning process is the technique that gives an opportunity to receive the comprehensive assessment of the applied techniques and an ability to manage them. Brinko (1993) is one of the authors who considered this work strategy and based on the complex analysis of approaches to finding and submitting the necessary information. According to the author, it is essential to ensure such a mode of work so that teachers and tutors could receive formative and competent feedback that would allow summarizing the results of the work done (Brinko, 1993). This measure may be useful in assessing the results of activities and the outcomes of mastering an educational program by students.

In the context of this topic, the work by Brown (2014) can be a useful source. The author argues that student engagement is one of the most valuable variables in assessing the effectiveness of particular training (Brown, 2014). Also, Brown (2014) makes a proposal for evaluating the productivity of the learning process by applying a special complex model where different indicators and results can be displayed. According to the outcomes of the analysis, cognitive skills are trained much higher if several factors are taken into account when drawing up a comprehensive picture and not just summary marks. Therefore, such an integrated approach may be considered relevant and justified.

The concept of metacognition in learning is addressed in the work of Hartman and Lin (2011). The authors emphasize the use of the technique of multiple-choice questions; however, they consider this teaching methodology by assessing the impact on the conscious choice of students (Hartman & Lin, 2011). Active group sessions where this principle of knowledge testing is used are evaluated as productive, and the skills of working with materials increase significantly.

Handelsman et al. (2004) also propose to pay attention to the ways of improving the technique of submitting educational material and conduct meta-analyses and experiments in order to identify optimal interventions. According to them, “scientific teaching involves active learning strategies to engage students in the process of science” (Handelsman et al., 2004, p. 521). Consequently, this model of work allows focusing on the ability to use the existing knowledge correctly and apply them in practice but not just retell material learned.

When talking about the concept of metacognition, this concept is reflected in the academic article by Hattie, Biggs, and Purdie (1996). The authors offer to use those interventions that are aimed at increasing the effectiveness of education and argue that training should “promote a high degree of learner activity and metacognitive awareness” (Hattie et al., 1996, p. 99). This statement suggests that an ability to use different educational approaches opens up broad prospects in comparison with those methods where traditional principles of teaching material are encouraged.

Similar opinions are also described by Knight and Wood (2005) who argue that learning approaches based on lecture training are “rudimentary” and do not bring significant benefits (p. 305). Instead, the authors recommend paying attention to stimulating cognitive skills and offering students interactive forms of education that are generally shared by both adults and children (Knight & Wood, 2005). Therefore, those approaches that involve the non-standard presentation of information can be evaluated as effective and useful techniques.

One of the considered academic works where the concept of metacognition is disclosed comprehensively is the article by Livingston (1997). The author argues that “metacognition refers to higher order thinking that involves active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning” (Livingston, 1997, p. 1). This concept provides an opportunity to delve into the basics of learning and to find answers not only to questions about how to teach but also why it is important to train in one way or another.

According to Livingston (1997), this technique eliminates potential risks that inevitably arise in traditional learning techniques, and gives a possibility to foresee the outcomes of certain interventions. Veenman and Verheij (2001) also considered the metacognitive functions of students and argued that, based on their research, these skills “contributed to learning results (partly) independent of intellectual ability” (p. 259). Using the technique of higher order thinking allows achieving positive learning outcomes regardless of personal abilities, which is the proof of the effectiveness of this approach in the modern educational environment and, in particular, in classes with different levels of students’ preparedness.

Using Clicker in Classroom

Some researchers pay much attention to special tools that make it possible to simplify the learning process and, at the same time, increase the efficiency of work by introducing the innovative ways of teaching. Brady (2013) introduces such a term as a clicker, or a classroom response system. The author calls these mechanisms “electronic feedback devices” and argues that their use in educational establishments can simplify tasks for both students and teachers (Brady, 2013, p. 885).

In addition, according to the author, these systems affect metacognition, which is also a positive aspect of work (Brady, 2013). Herreid (2006) considers clickers from a technical side and describes the principle of their operation in detail. These systems are devices with remote control, and teachers and pupils have access to them. According to Herreid (2006), “student enthusiasm for clickers is high,” which confirms their effectiveness in the learning process and the benefits that they bring through convenience (p. 45). Therefore, their implementation is a logical step in improving the educational process.

Another author, King (2011), focuses his research on the dignity of clickers and lists the advantages that these systems have. According to the author, “the use of clickers allows students to maintain the anonymity normally associated with the cards used in the traditional implementation” (King, 2011, p. 1485). In other words, in obsolete teaching methods, the characteristic features of students’ handwriting, their style of presentation, and other factors could not ensure the confidentiality of tests conducted.

The use of clickers, on the contrary, allows teachers to check all assignments in the same way, which, at the same time, makes it possible to exclude prejudice to individuals. Koenig (2010) considers these systems in the context of the impact on student performance and attendance, paying attention to statistical reports. In accordance with the author’s research, “attendance rates were extremely high at 80%-95% for all classes that included clickers versus 50%-60% for classes without clickers” (Koenig, 2010, p. 48). This statistics provide an opportunity to assess the merits of classroom response systems and to suggest that their use in modern education can increase students’ interest in learning and motivate them to achieve success.

Despite the fact that Lucas (2010) focuses on the features of the one-minute paper in his study, his work also affects feedback given to students, which is also one the characteristic of clickers. The author argues that personalized answers are an effective means of communication among teachers and students and allow the intensity of the learning process to be achieved, which is not always easy to implement (Lucas, 2010).

Moreover, Lucas (2010) pays attention to the importance of such interaction not only in primary learning institutions but also in higher educational establishments where much depends on the quality of contact among tutors and students. In the study devoted to the effectiveness of clickers, Mankowski (2011) remarks that no significant changes were noticed when two models were compared.

Contrary to the claims of Koenig (2010), Mankowski (2011) argues that attendance rates did not improve significantly due to clickers. Nevertheless, in general, the author approves this methodology and states that classroom response systems have a large potential in case of their correct application (Mankowski, 2011). Therefore, clickers are not criticized, but the results of the implementation of these systems may differ.

Classroom response systems in the learning process can be used both for a small number of students and for large groups. Morrison, Caughran, and Sauers (2014) consider the use of clickers in large auditoriums accommodating more than three hundred people. Also, the authors give formulas for calculating the attendance rate and the ratio of the number of correct and incorrect answers (Morrison et al., 2014). According to the results of this research, students solve complex problems more actively and are ready to stay after classes in order to understand the materials that are hard for them. This desire for knowledge is largely due to the introduction of classroom response systems, which make the learning process more engrossing.

The work by Zull (2011) is devoted to more advanced systems used in the learning process. In particular, these are neuron networks, high-precision mechanisms that help to calculate all the data as accurately as possible and perform comprehensive analyses. As Zull (2011) notes, “neuron networks are a continuing project, dynamically strengthening and weakening as a function of experience” (p. 193). This statement confirms the uniqueness of these systems and their value in terms of the possibility of accumulating knowledge. Consequently, the use of such networks in the learning process may allow achieving high-performance results and the competent assessment of the work done.

Different Forms of the Muddiest Points from the Literature Review

Due to different approaches to teaching exact sciences, some complexities and problems can be eliminated, and the muddiest points may be listed for overcoming challenges. For instance, according to Almer, Jones, and Moeckel (1998) who consider the introduction of the one-minute paper as a valuable tool for the learning process, this technique gives an anonymous opportunity to mention the muddiest points left after discussions.

As the authors remark, most often, students mention the difficulties that are caused by the study of a new topic. Chizmar and Ostrosky (1998) also consider the aforementioned one-minute papers and analyze how improvements in the learning process can be implemented. According to them, instructors can always help those students who find a certain material muddy and cannot understand specific details of certain topics comprehensively (Chizmar & Ostrosky, 1998). Such interaction makes it possible to establish trust among participants in the learning process and, at the same time, to achieve higher academic performance.

Another point that deserves attention is the complexity of learning exact sciences. Beede et al. (2011) consider the number of women who work in such areas as “science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)” (para. 1). According to the authors, this field is not in demand among the female population, which is one of the muddiest points of the labor market (Beede et al., 2011). As a result, gender stereotypes and the absence of special preparatory role models are identified as key factors affecting this problem.

Davis (1993) also draws attention to the number of people involved in exact sciences, but his research is more concerned with the ways and techniques used in the educational environment. The author argues that teaching tools are not always suitable for certain types of work, and some obsolete techniques can be propagated, which is another muddy point (Davis, 1993). Therefore, it is always essential to choose educational practices competently and adhere to those tools that are relevant to the type of tasks.

The problem of introducing electronic voting systems for lectures is discussed in the work by Draper and Brown (2004). As a justification for difficulties, the authors mention the fact that not all students are willing to share their personal opinions regarding the teaching process, which is a significant omission. Limitations in the time frame are mentioned as one of the drawbacks; therefore, the correct distribution of the working load is the point that deserves attention.

Hake (1998) also mentions the interactive method of education and compares it with traditional teaching techniques. According to the researcher, the lack of students’ knowledge in the conditions of using modern assessment technologies is one of the muddiest points, and additional tests are needed to help those who cannot utilize these systems as efficiently as possible (Hake, 1998). Therefore, an interactive approach may have some limitations and difficulties.

The research by Halloun and Hestenes (1987) and Harwood (1999) were conducted quite a long time ago and were devoted to the study of the new techniques of teaching exact sciences. Halloun and Hestenes (1987) proposed to consider a special model of work that allowed implementing new approaches to teaching. The authors noted the benefits of this theory but also argued that inadequate training of instructors could become a significant problem in the implementation of the model in practice. Thus, qualification is the essential component of successful interventions, and its lack is one of the muddiest points.

Harwood (1999) paid attention to classroom assessment techniques (CATs) and remarked that, despite the students’ approval of these tools, they should not be utilized all the time. The learning process requires concentration; therefore, the excessive use of such systems in practice and constant innovations can also be called muddy points.


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