Active learning wakes up your brain. It helps you understand and retain information quickly so that it’s easy for you to use.
Many traditional educational programs rely on passive learning tools like reading and listening to lectures. Learning this way requires a lot of focus. Because students don’t have to engage with new information right away, it’s also easy to forget what you’ve learned.
When you use active learning strategies, your brain processes both new information and how to use it. You practice forming a neural pathway instead of just thinking about doing it later.
Active learning builds a strong foundation for applying and integrating new ideas into your professional skill set. Here are five active learning strategies that you can use to learn new concepts quickly.
1. Take Notes
It’s a proven science that notetaking increases memory and your understanding of new ideas. When you listen to speakers or watch lectures, you should write down the big ideas and anything else that stands out to you.
Also, consider writing in your books if you own them. Underlining, circling, and otherwise marking reading material will help you better engage with and understand it. You should also keep track of any questions that come up while you’re reading.
2. Write About It
Another way to actively engage with educational material is to write about it. To remember a new idea, try writing a summary of it. Push yourself to write an essay exploring different opinions about a new topic. Write down definitions and then put them into your own words to help you memorize new ideas.
You can also keep a journal of how new ideas make you feel or any interesting thoughts they spark. Do you have questions? What’s easy for you, and what’s challenging to understand? What would you like to come back to later? Responding to new information is the basis for learning, and it’ll cement new concepts into your brain.
3. Teach Someone Else
Verbal communication is another excellent way to practice active learning. When you explain an idea to someone else, you realize how much you actually understand. The other person may ask questions you haven’t considered or want clarification on certain points that still seem confusing.
Even if you don’t specifically “teach” someone else, it’s still a good idea to have a person to talk with about what you’re learning. Make sure you give them time to share as well!
4. Move Around
Movement wakes up your body and is good for your brain. Many people spend extended periods of time sitting each day at work, so being still for longer to learn can be frustrating.
Ask if you can stand while listening to lectures. Move and walk around while you study, and plan in quick breaks for jumping jacks, climbing stairs, or wall push-ups. Even a 15-minute weightless YouTube video can make a difference for your focus, interest, and memory.
5. Take Breaks
To learn well, you must rest well, too. Take frequent breaks to recharge and be ready to learn from educational meetings or courses. Research shows you’re most productive at work when you alternate high focus periods of work with regular 15-minute breaks.
For your brain and body to be working at their peak, you also need to get adequate sleep every night. Structure your day around breaks, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you enjoy learning.
Active Learning Online
Active learning in an online format looks a little different from the classroom. Each response learners give must go through a remote communication system, which adds an extra step and thus an extra hurdle for students and educators.
For instance, classroom discussions may become online discussion boards. Or, learners may meet on a group Zoom call or communicate with teachers purely by email. Even in an online setting, learners can incorporate active learning strategies to make the most of their education. These strategies become even more important when the only educational tool you’re engaging with is a computer screen.
Although online learning platforms can take some getting used to, they’re also pretty amazing. Technological innovation makes it possible for learners to save time and money, all while learning from the security of their homes.
Learning for Life
Use these five active learning strategies to sharpen your educational skills and boost your comprehension of new material. Education is a privilege and one you should make the most of. Don’t settle for passive learning! Actively engage with material so that you can excel in the classroom and beyond.
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