Active Learning: The Key to Our Future

By Cone, Diana | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Active Learning: The Key to Our Future


Cone, Diana, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


TRENDS, FORECASTS, AND IMAGES OF THE FUTURE

ABSTRACT

The current education environment is characterized as being fiercely competitive due to our complex, global society. Educators are challenged to provide an educational paradigm that encourages an active learning environment linking collaboration and state-of-the-art technology into successful, lasting learning.

ACTIVE LEARNING: THE KEY TO OUR FUTURE

Students must be trained to learn. They must be taught to think. Isn't that what education has traditionally been about? Yes, but learning in today's socially integrated, culturally diverse, technologically complex environment requires teachers to train their students to think and learn beyond traditional boundaries in order to become functioning members of society. During a period of skyrocketing global competition, experts insist that employees must be able to adapt to an entire culture of information, a culture that regards knowledge and technology as key commodities. In fact, mastering the new media by perfecting communication skills will provide students with a key competitive advantage in a society that places such high hopes on technology (Drucker, 1994; Owston, 1997; Reid-Wallace, 1995; Riley, 1994). Others argue that, in addition, ability to communicate effectively by bringing together disparate parties with diverse perspectives and experience will empower individuals and families at home and on the job to manage the challenges of a new global society (Bitter, 1997; Gray, 1989; McKeachie, 1999; Perkins, 1999; Tinzmann, 1990). Today's workplace requires that employees be adaptable, that they be team players, and that they be ready to function in a technocratic, complex global society. To succeed, students must become informed citizens capable of independent and critical thought.

How can teachers help mold tomorrow's leaders to fit these demands? No doubt, faculty members have the opportunity and obligation to prepare students for future leadership roles by promoting an active learning environment. But student involvement is critical to successful and sustained learning (Johnson, 1991; McKeachie, 1999). Educators are increasingly encouraged by experts to provide a higher level of academic, technical, communicative, and information processing skills. Integrating 21 st century technology into the classroom to create a collaborative environment is the key challenge (Graziadei, 1996). Collaboration, used in conjunction with current telecommunications technology, offers faculty the opportunity to develop creative and effecfive teaching experiences to enrich academic development and facilitate lasting learning. The use of collaborative learning (interaction of people inside and outside the classroom in a variety of ways) can provide multiple student benefits: (a) aid in problem solving, (b) promote the transfer and assimilation of knowledge, (c) foster interdisciplinary thinking, (d) encourage active learning, and (e) enhance analytical and communication skills of all forms (Lunsford, 1995).

COLLABORATIVE LEARNING

Collaboration has been defined as a system whereby individuals work together to obtain mutual benefit through the exchange of individual ideas and the production of shared knowledge. The problem is not one of communicating knowledge from professor to student, but rather of interaction between learners and teachers. Lunsford (1995) reported that one of the most important skills for employees in the new millennium would be to know how to work with other people, many of whom might be different from oneself. Collaborative learning can prepare students for the workplace if educators develop worthwhile projects that support active learning, promote team problem solving, encourage learning in a global context, and hone students' creativity. Collaborative learning assists in making the student an active participant in the learning process, rather than a passive recipient of information (Bitter, 1997). …

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