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Importance of active learning – Part 1

Defining the importance of active learning and how it relates to youth development is a healthy relationship.

Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development programs offer many types of trainings and resources that help teach young people life skills and getting youth engaged in learning. In this two-part series, we will be learning what active learning is and share some examples of active learning.

One of the resources used comes from “Activities That Teach” by Tom Jackson, who has authored many books on teaching hands-on approach for youth to learn. As a former teacher and now a prevention specialist working on youth issues, Jackson has dealt with youth in the classroom. He feels youth are not getting the more abstract life skills such as communication, problem-solving, decision-making, value formation and healthy lifestyle choosing.

In his books, Jackson shares that active learning gives youth a chance to participate in an activity, where they become part of the lesson. Some examples of this are role playing, demonstrations, discussions, games, skits, etc. In our Michigan 4-H program, we include experiential learning as a teaching strategy, where youth are part of the educational process. Once youth experience the activity, processing questions are used to review what was learned. Jackson states that the active learning concept uses two strategies, cooperative learning and experiential learning. In cooperative learning, youth work together in small groups to create the outcome.

Fun and learning can occur at the same time and using the active learning concept, youth can reinforce what they learned after debriefing or discussing what they did and why and how they can use it in the future.

Steps to the active learning process as stated by Jackson are as follows:

  • General concept is presented to the group.
  • Specific information concerning the concept is received by the group.
  • Activity is undertaken by the group.
  • Group explores actions and consequences during the activity.
  • Group discussion is held immediately following the conclusion of the activity.
  • General principles are discussed.
  • Specific life applications are derived from the general principles.
  • Life applications are internalized by individuals according to their needs and readiness.
  • Students act on what they learned.

In “Importance of active learning – Part 2” I share some of the activities that can be used in the active learning process.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2016 impact report: “Preparing young children for success” and “Preparing the future generation for success.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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