Active learning does not mean activity but rather it

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Unformatted text preview: ten used as a contrast to “passive learning,” which is where the learner is simply ingesting information without taking part in processing it. This kind of learning rests lightly on the brain and is soon forgotten. It is easy to confuse active learning with physical activity, thinking, for example, that if you are in a class doing group work such as small group discussion, you are doing active learning. Although doing group work is more likely to promote active learning than sitting in a lecture hall quietly listening, active learning is not an automatic result. If you have participated in group work, you know that from a learning perspective, sometimes it is a waste of time. If group work is off- task, redundant, or superfluous, you might even feel that it is aggravating and frustrating. Active learning does not mean “activity,” but rather, it means that your mind is actively engaged. Its defining characteristics are that you are a dynamic participant in your learning and that you are reflecting on and monitoring both the processes and the results of your learning. Reading the text in this online book or even sitting in a lecture hall can be active learning if you are self- questioning, analyzing, and incorporating the information you are reading or hearing into your existing knowledge. To better understand how active learning occurs, it is useful to have at least a basic understanding of its neurological basis. The Cognitive Basis of Active Learning Neuroscientists are making amazing discoveries about what happens within our brains when we are learning. The brain is composed of cells called neurons. Although these neurons start out as round cell bodies, as we learn, each cell body grows a single long root called an axon as well as hundreds of thousands of short branches called dendrites. Neurons receive information through the dendrites then send it as a signal down the axon where chemical neurotransmitters are “fired” across a gap in a structure called the synapse to be received by the dendrites of a neighboring neuron. As the neurotransmitter enters the dendrites of the new neuron, it sparks a series of electro- chemical reactions that cause the receiving neuron also to “fire” through its axon. The process continues in a sequence from neuron to...
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This document was uploaded on 02/16/2014.

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