Active Learning and Disruptive Pedagogies
In this #LTHEChat, we would like to explore the disruptive potential of active learning.
It is probably easier to define what active learning is not, than what it is. While a concise definition for active learning remains elusive, during our Active Learning course, we have bought into Kovbasyuk and Blessinger’s (2013) ‘vision of education’ as an ‘open meaning-making process’; the interaction between the teacher, student and space at the core of active learning. This open process of negotiation inevitably and to some degree deliberately causes friction, even cognitive dissonance:
“O’Donoghue et al.  argue that that transformative learning constitutes situated processes of reflexive learning around tensions, discontinuities and risk in local contexts in multi-actor groups.” (Lotz-Sisitka et al, 2015, p.75)
One of our course participants asked ‘Who are we disrupting, with our active learning strategies?’ Hence our second question: are active learning strategies actually disruptive, and who are they disrupting? The learners? The educator? The institution? We believe active learning can disrupt us as educators just as much as the learner. We are stepping back from what is expected; we create situations where outcomes are difficult to anticipate, and thus we are taking risks when using pedagogies that are more student–centred.
This is the last TweetChat of the year. So, our questions are not going to be purely serious and philosophical. We would like to explore where the magic happens. You know, the moments in teaching where you and your students are ‘in flow’, where this negotiated meaning-making is happening and there is an environment of mutual trust and respect. Are these moments elusive? Why can we not just recreate these every day? Can we find the magic?
What would you wish for? I [Nathalie] would love to have app developers or game designers at hand when planning active teaching. There are situations where gamification to convey a really difficult concept would have a profound impact on students. Now in the physical classroom, it’s easy enough to bring in Lego™ or PlayDough™ or make up games—I have previously hand–sewn fabric fortune–cookies! In a virtual learning environment with our distance learners, or when we want to encourage outside of classroom learning, digital games would have such an impact! That’s my wish anyway.
My [Vicki’s] wish is already being granted – I think we are at a point where the learners, teachers, institution, sector and workplace are ready for active learning. Rather than being the signature of early adopters, active learning is rapidly becoming a pattern for the design of higher education, from our learning activities to teaching sessions to our learning spaces, whether online or face-to-face. There is still a lot of progress to be made though, so we would like to know what your Christmas wish for active learning is.
Wishing everyone a happy festive season!
Dr Nathalie Sheridan @UofGLEADS undertook her first degree @tudresden_dein Erziehungswissenschaften, and has worked in culture and museums education throughout her studies. Hence her interest in active pedagogies and integrating the students’ environment into the curriculum.
Dr Vicki Dale is a Senior Academic and Digital Development Adviser at @UofGlasgow with specific interests in blended and online learning and evaluating the learner experience of teaching methods that encourage students’ self-regulated learning.
Lotz-Sisitka, H., Wals, A. E., Kronlid, D., & McGarry, D. (2015). Transformative, transgressive social learning: Rethinking higher education pedagogy in times of systemic global dysfunction. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 16, 73-80. https://arjenwals.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/transgressivesociallearning.pdf
Kovbasyuk, O. and P. Blessinger (2013). Meaning-centered education: International perspectives and explorations in higher education, Routledge.