CPD workshop: Active learning

Written by: Steve Burnage | Published:
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Active learning focuses on how students learn, not just on what they learn. Continuing his regular series, Steve Burnage talks us through CPD ideas that can be adapted for your school. He will offer a template for a 45-minute workshop, with free handouts and slides available on our website. This instalment looks at active learning

To deliver this 45-minute CPD training in your school, follow the advice and structure in the article below and download the free supporting handouts and PowerPoint presentation by clicking the buttons above.

CPD workshop: Getting started with active learning

The purpose of this article is to provide a summary of a 45-minute interactive training session that could be suitable for a staff meeting, staff development group, small group CPD session or for individual study.

The training outline is included here while the PowerPoint slides and an accompanying participants’ handout is available to download by clicking the buttons above.

Slide 1: Welcome

In order to facilitate this short training session, you will need:

  • Copies of the PowerPoint slides printed three to a page with space for notes for each participant.
  • Copies of the accompanying Active Learning handout for each participant.
  • Flip chart paper and marker pens.

All resources for this training are available to download above or by email from bitesizedtraining@gmx.com

An introduction to creative and active learning in the classroom is designed to develop the learning and teaching skills of teachers, support staff and school leaders.

Slide 2: What is active learning?

Activity: What does active learning look like to you? Think, Pair, Share activity leading to a whole-group discussion.

Active learning is a process that has student learning at its centre. Active learning focuses on how students learn, not just on what they learn. Students are encouraged to “think hard”, rather than passively receive information from the teacher.

With active learning, students play an important part in their own learning process. They build knowledge and understanding in response to opportunities provided by their teacher.

Slide 3: What is the theory behind active learning?

Active learning is based on a theory called constructivism. Constructivism emphasises the fact that learners construct or build their own understanding. Learners develop their existing knowledge and understanding in order to achieve deeper levels of understanding. This means that learners are more able to analyse, evaluate and synthesise ideas (thus achieving the higher order skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy).

Slide 4: Benefits of active learning

Activity: What are the benefits of adopting an active approach to student learning? Work in groups to identify your top five reasons then share these with the group. Ensure you consider the following:

  1. Active learning helps students to become “lifelong learners”. In an active learning approach, learning is not only about the content, but is also about the process. Active learning gives students greater involvement and control over their learning.
  2. Active learning encourages success: encouraging active learning helps students to make better progress, based on their enhanced skills and understanding. Analytical skills also help students to be better at problem-solving and applying their knowledge.
  3. Active learning is engaging and intellectually exciting. An active learning approach encourages all students to stay focused on their learning, which will often give them greater enthusiasm for their learning.

Slide 5: Five misconceptions about active learning

  1. Active learning is all about doing a particular activity.
  2. Active learning is the same as enquiry-based learning.
  3. Active learning means a complete change of teaching style and classroom layout.
  4. Active learning will cause bad behaviour.
  5. Students have to be physically active.

Slide 6: Putting it into practice: An active learning checklist

Activity: In groups, consider your responses to these questions:

  • What do the students in my class need to learn?
  • How will the task that I have chosen, help my students to learn?
  • How am I using questioning?
  • How far am I creating a positive classroom environment where it is fine to take learning risks?
  • If I need to focus on content, can I encourage the development of a skill at the same time?
  • How will I present the task to the students?
  • How will I know that every child in my class has learned and made progress?

The most important thing is to put the student and the learning at the centre of your planning.

Consider carefully what you want your students to learn or understand and then shape the task to activate this learning.

All active learning tasks tend to focus on encouraging the students to “think hard” for themselves, rather than being passive recipients of knowledge.

Slide 7: Nine active learning techniques

Explore these active learning techniques as set out in the participant handout and then work together to devise and share some lesson learning activities that model each of these active learning techniques.

  • Guess the Lesson Objective.
  • Provocation.
  • Visible Thinking.
  • Questioning.
  • Class debate.
  • Quiz creation.
  • Modelling.
  • Exit activity.
  • The flipped classroom concept.

Slide 8: Conclusion

Active learning: Learning which engages students and challenges their thinking, using a variety of activities.

Slide 9: Next steps

Activity: What are you going to do as a result of this training?

  • Steve Burnage has experience leading challenging inner city and urban secondary schools. He now works as a freelance trainer, consultant and author for staff development, strategic development, performance management and coaching and mentoring. Visit www.simplyinset.co.uk and read his previous articles for SecEd, including his previous CPD workshop overviews, at http://bit.ly/2u1KW9e

Further information

This article is the latest in a series of Bite Sized Training CPD in SecEd. Bite Sized Training offers a range of 45-minute CPD sessions designed to be used as focused yet active school-based training. The materials are produced by Steve Burnage through www.simplyinset.co.uk. Steve will offer us another free CPD session in SecEd on May 17.


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