The 3 fundamental benefits of active learning

Jan-Wolter Smit

Head of Education

What is active learning?

Active learning is a student-centred way of learning. 

It focuses on how students learn, and not only on what they learn. Students are stimulated to ‘think hard’ and become active, as opposed to passively listening and basically just memorising what you tell them. All teachers wish for classrooms full of active, engaged learners!

What are the theories behind active learning?

Active learning is based on the theory of constructivism. 

Constructivism is an approach to learning that holds that people actively construct their own knowledge and that reality is determined by the experiences of the learner. Constructivists argue that learning is a process of actively ‘creating meaning’. Learners develop their existing knowledge and understanding to deeper levels of understanding.

Teachers can support students by making these deeper levels of understanding possible. How? By providing learning environments, interactions, opportunities, targeted learning techniques and instructions to stimulate students to dive deeper into the process of learning.

The theory of social constructivism argues that learning happens mainly through social interaction with other people, teachers for example, but also peers and other students. Teachers can use many methods and techniques, including scaffolding and assessments for learning, to help students phase out learning based on their current skills and abilities. 

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1. Active learning leads students towards success

Successful students use their understanding to evaluate and synthesise ideas.

Active learning stimulates students to take a central role in their learning. By doing so, students enhance their skills and understanding of a topic or subject. This helps them get through examinations with remarkable results, and higher overall scores. 

Students who are stimulated to learn actively during secondary school are better prepared for higher education and life at the workplace. Developing analytical skills also helps them with problem solving and with applying their knowledge to practice.

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2. Active learning promotes lifelong learners

Learning is not only about the content, but just as much about the process. During the process, students work on their autonomy and ability to learn. It empowers them, as it gives them greater involvement and control over how they are learning new things.

It’s like riding a bike: these skills remain intact even after their studies. Once they get used to ‘thinking hard’ about things, learning better and diving deeper, they rarely go back to passively listening to people, and accepting what they read and hear. The great thing about empowering your students is that you give them tools to better their lives.

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3. Active learning stands for a lifetime of engagement

An active approach to learning encourages focus and curiosity, and gives learners a feeling of empowerment. All these factors have a positive effect on students’ level of enthusiasm at school, during their free time, and later on in life on the workfloor.

Empowered, active learners always find ways to dive into the many faces of reality, and listen to more than one opinion about a topic before forming their own. That makes them generally more emphatic, and creative in the way they approach topics and communicate with others. All in all, active learners lead colourful, meaningful lives and they tend to inspire other people with their active energy and curiosity.

Interested in more? Check out 3 ways to promote critical thinking by asking questions