Activity-based learning is the standard in Montessori schools and business management institutions. Simply said, activity-based teaching entails learning via doing and application. It's an uncommon instructor who uses activities to educate in schools or colleges. Most people enjoy lectures because they address big groups of people and tend to explain rather than "display." In their rush to finish the syllabus, they rarely take the time to assess how much their students have learned. As a result, students frequently require tutoring. One college student informed me about her experiences with coaching both before and after school.

Many teachers claimed that kids were absent from class after turning on their smartphones during the lockout. The general consensus was that online classes did not allow for interaction. Some professors included quizzes in their lectures to check that students were paying attention, but this was more of a technique to keep them awake. Did lecturers use activities to convey topics, or did they lecture like in traditional classes?

Connect the dots

Professor of Physics at Harvard, Eric Mazur, outlines the distinction between lecturing and learning. Students must understand and integrate concepts, be able to relate them to past information, and connect them to their experiences, he claims, in order to learn. Students must be able to "translate one's learning to a new setting" above all else. He was a high-rated teacher until he learned that his students were simply memorising and regurgitating what he was saying. When he realised what they were up to, he was ecstatic.

Mazur had the pupils solve word problems by applying concepts to real-life scenarios. One issue was this: if a huge truck crashed with a stationary car, which would be more damaged, and why? The kids supplied a variety of answers, indicating that there was a lot of guessing going on. He then instructed them to speak with their next-door neighbour about the issue. They only arrived at the answer after going back and forth with their arguments. Mazur had gotten them to think, which he believes is the true goal of school.

Mazur demonstrated through his own classroom experiments that learning occurs through student interaction and application of the fundamentals. He popularised the concept by calling it "Peer or Interactive Learning." He also demolished the assumption that a silent class is beneficial.

Mazur had the pupils solve word problems by applying concepts to real-life scenarios. One issue was this: if a huge truck crashed with a stationary car, which would be more damaged, and why? The kids supplied a variety of answers, indicating that there was a lot of guessing going on. He then instructed them to speak with their next-door neighbour about the issue. They only arrived at the answer after going back and forth with their arguments. Mazur had gotten them to think, which he believes is the true goal of school.

Mazur demonstrated through his own classroom experiments that learning occurs through student interaction and application of the fundamentals. He popularised the concept by calling it "Peer or Interactive Learning." He also demolished the assumption that a silent class is beneficial.

(This is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in The Hindu. The original article can be found at https://www.thehindu.com/education/how-active-learning-requires-prep-on-the-teachers-part-but-is-rewarding-when-students-exceed-expectations/article37987854.ece)