What is Active Learning?

I have been practicing active learning with my Haley because I’m teaching her colors and numbers. I have never stopped to explain what is active learning. You will soon discover it is terminology you may not be familiar with, but you are most likely already involved in active learning.

What is active learning? Why do active learning strategies in the classroom work?

Active learning by definition is “a process whereby students engage in activities, such as reading, writing, discussion, or problem solving that promote analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of class content.”

In simple terms, any learning that is not direct instruction (where the teacher does the talking and the student passively listens) is active learning.

To me school was boring to just listen to a teacher regurgitate facts acquired from books. I didn’t get that much out of the lecture either by sitting there trying to listen. Suppose instead of a teacher saying this is the color yellow, this is the color blue – the students were able to sort colored blocks, or fill one hat with yellow feathers and the other hat with blue feathers. Then down the road the student could create the color words out of toothpicks, or use their finger to write the word in a tray of sand. The student now is actively involved in their learning. They are using their senses, in this case sight and touch, to learn the colors and color words.

Amazingly when students are actively involved in their education their retention rate is higher. If you really think about it that does make sense. What if a teacher used a few different active learning techniques to teach the same concept such as colors? The more the student manipulates the information, the better the retention. Try to find a way to use all the senses to learn your concept- in various activities.

Activity-based learning has a much better retention or learning % than direct instruction.  Here is a chart with Dale’s Cone of Experience that verifies this information.

What is active learning? Why do active learning strategies in the classroom work?



As you can see doing is better then passively listening or reading. If I really want my kids to learn something well I ask them to teach it to me or someone else. If they succeed then I know they have listened and understand the concept and will retain almost all they have learned.

So, what is active learning? Go ahead and teach it to a friend today.


I am a mom to Five Little Chefs who love to cook and create anything with their hands. Watching over 10 additional hands keeps me busy but is so much fun! We laugh and cry everyday, but then want to do it again the next day. That is how we know we are enjoying life!

2 Replies to "What is Active Learning?"

  • comment-avatar
    Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com May 5, 2015 (3:44 am)

    Yes! I personally am an active learner, so I try to keep that in mind when teaching my boys things. It’s so much easier to understand things if you are actively participating, doing, or creating. Pinned!

  • comment-avatar
    allthatsjas May 12, 2015 (11:23 am)

    Great post! Thanks for sharing at Thursday Favorite Things!

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