From Teaching to Learning - The Advantages of Passive vs. Active Learning Strategies

by VickyRN Senior Moderator

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  1. 13
    Passive learning

    Occurs when students use their senses to take in information from a lecture, reading assignment, or audiovisual. This is the mode of learning most commonly present in classrooms. It is used to acquire ideas and information that is available for recall.

    Advantages:

    1. Can present a great deal of information in a short period of time.
    2. Lecture notes, handouts, and audiovisual media can be selected and prepared in advance.
    3. Controlled environment (faculty more comfortable).
    4. Good for new faculty member or one who is teaching new content.
    5. Students most often prefer this approach (they are used to this method of teaching).
    6. Important concepts and content identified a concrete, organized, and meaningful manner.
    7. Students have lower anxiety levels and feel more secure with this method.

    Disadvantages:

    1. Little opportunity to assess how well students are learning the content.
    2. Little time for questions, clarification, or discussion.
    3. Students may not feel comfortable letting faculty know that they do not understand key concepts, they are reluctant to ask questions in class, or they may not ask enough questions to clarify their misunderstandings.
    4. Does not require consistent use of higher-level cognitive skills (no opportunity for application).
    5. May become tedious and boring.


    Active learning

    Involves the student through participation and investment of energy in all three phases of the learning process (input, operations, and feedback). This type of learning is more apt to stimulate higher cognitive processes and critical thinking.

    Advantages:

    1. May increase critical thinking skills in students.
    2. Enables students to show initiative.
    3. Involves students by stimulating them to talk more.
    4. Incorporates more student input and ideas.
    5. Easier to assess student learning.
    6. Better meets the needs of students with varying learning styles.

    Disadvantages:

    1. Faculty need to be expert in the content area.
    2. May be difficult to organize active learning experiences.
    3. Requires more time and energy and may be stressful for faculty.
    4. Faculty may receive less favorable evaluations from students.
    5. Students may be stressed because of the necessity to adapt to new ways of learning.

    More about active learning strategies later. Stay tuned!

    References

    Barr, R.B., & Tagg, J. (1995, November/ December). From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change Magazine, 13-25. http://ilte.ius.edu/pdf/BarrTagg.pdf

    Hewlette, C., & King, L. (2004). A recipe for introducing student-based learning into your classroom. Craven Community College.

    Jeffries, P.R., & Norton, B. (2005). Selecting learning experiences to achieve curriculum outcomes. In D.M. Billings & J.A. Halstead (Eds.), Teaching in nursing: A Guide for faculty (2nd ed., pp. 187-212). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders.
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 2, '09
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    VickyRN joined Mar '01 - from 'Under the shadow of His wings...'. VickyRN has '16' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds'. Posts: 12,043 Likes: 6,414; Learn more about VickyRN by visiting their allnursesPage


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    17 Comments so far...

  4. 1
    Excellent descriptions of different learning styles. At my small ADN program, we have lecture for 4.5 hours (8:30am to 1pm.) Most of us teach via passive learning, that is lecture with Power Point slides- and by about 12n, it's very hard to keep everyone's attention. Yet, there is so much content that has to be covered. Other then dynamic slides, interesting anecdotes, how does one keep today's learner awake and interested for this long? I can't remember when I went to nsg school, but I'm pretty sure I didn't have nearly 5 hours of class!

    The new buzz word we're learning is "simulation" and not just "Sim Man" and Sim Baby. Any insights on this form of learning? (Thanks! You've been a wealth of information!)
    VickyRN likes this.
  5. 2
    Very nice synopsis, Vicky. Oncnursemsn, I agree that "covering the content" happens more readily with passive learning strategies, but is "covering the content" as important as teaching our students to think? Content helps them pass NCLEX, but with the pace of change in health care, delivering content passively does not serve our students as future professional nurses. They need to know how to find and use reliable sources of information, how to clearly articulate the nursing viewpoint, and how to lead change. Sitting in a classroom does not achieve these goals.

    I think Simulation is a very effective active learning strategy. But say more about what you mean by "not just Sim man and Sim baby."
    oncnursemsn and VickyRN like this.
  6. 2
    Quote from oncnursemsn
    Excellent descriptions of different learning styles. At my small ADN program, we have lecture for 4.5 hours (8:30am to 1pm.) Most of us teach via passive learning, that is lecture with Power Point slides- and by about 12n, it's very hard to keep everyone's attention. Yet, there is so much content that has to be covered. Other then dynamic slides, interesting anecdotes, how does one keep today's learner awake and interested for this long? I can't remember when I went to nsg school, but I'm pretty sure I didn't have nearly 5 hours of class!

    The new buzz word we're learning is "simulation" and not just "Sim Man" and Sim Baby. Any insights on this form of learning? (Thanks! You've been a wealth of information!)
    We are truly being bombarded with more and more content everyday. Doesn't information double every five years? There comes a breaking point where faculty realize that they just can't cover it all. This overload of curriculum is termed "Additive Curriculum," and there have been several good articles addressing this phenomenon. Ultimately, we have to do what Theresa suggests - teach concepts, rather than covering all the facts. The latter is an impossibility anyway. We have to cut out all non-essential material and impart a lifelong love of learning to the students. Students need to be taught how to think, the overarching principles and concepts behind all the content, and how to investigate and find the most current "best practice" information on their own.

    I agree with you that simulation is an effective learning tool. It is a safe way for students to learn in a non-threatening environment. We have 6 or 7 simulation labs in our college of nursing with state-of-the-art mannequins. We develop critical thinking scenarios for them to work through. For instance, we have medication and wound care scenarios for our first semester students. One of our mannequins "Edna" sports a two-way microphone: she talks back! She also has an auscultable and palpable heart rate and the rise and fall of her chest indicates respirations. We observe the students' actions and reactions behind one-way mirrors. After the scenario is completed, we have a time of debriefing.
    Last edit by VickyRN on Apr 12, '09
    joyouter and Teresag_CNS like this.
  7. 1
    Good points!! The article addressing Passive vs Active Learning styles and strategies also serves to remind us of the various ways that adults learn. There is a strong need to instill in students and nurses an ability to listen, disseminate and reflect upon subject matter. Action Leaning Group Theory can be adapted to nursing where the focus lies not only upon learning and dissemination of content, but with a skilled facilitator, enables members to internalise and develop ways to address subjects pivotal to achieving successful learning such as reflection and analysis leading to self confidence and defusing negative self image.
    Although ALG ( Action Learning Groups) are used as a management tool, the process is broader and acts to defuse the malignancy of self doubt, thus stimulating dialogue, self respect and that of others for all participants, ie. for students/nurses allowing them to question, voice doubts or clarify lack of understanding of topic without fear or ridicule.
    Loss of confidence and negative self imagery are counterproductive to all, including nursing /students'/nurse and have become somewhat entrenched in nursing - an abhorrent part of nursing education and practice.
    Action Leaning also utilizes Experiential Learning (Kolb) which can be adapted to nursing training and ongoing practice, pulling upon past experiences to explore, support and link to present day learning.
    ALG is not a means for excusing poor quality nursing practice or dangerous actions but may act positively to prevent the occurrence of the same.
    From a personal perspective, ALG theory was part of my MScHRD and I found it supportive in learning and enrichment within nursing practice and in daily living.

    http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-explrn.htm

    http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal...accno=EJ500743 ( Lewin)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavio...ative_sciences
    VickyRN likes this.
  8. 1
    I have been teaching adults for over 35 years; and was a visual learner myself. Lectures weren't what impressed me about knowledge of subjects I was taught. Give me those visual aides and active learning strategies, for my success! It's a well knmown educational fact, proven many times, that people retain 20% of what they hear, 40% of what they hear and see; 60% of what they hear, see, and do; and 80% of what they hear, see, do and teach.

    In the discussion of the title, I was impressed with how the comfort of faculty superceded the learning of students; and how the author disproved her title of the entry. If you can't measure the effect of the teaching, how do you know that learning occurred? Sometimes regurgitation of material presented is just a big mess, and its application for future use impossible......

    I believe that in the coming decades, Universities as we know them won't exist. All the content of topics/subjects will be delivered to students online, at less cost, with labs for enhancing learning, and practise within the field of endeavor in which the content is applied, to evaluate/promote thorough digestion/cognition of the material. What is also needed, is to have students further the ideas presented with the application of that material, for economically sound future use and improvement. This would be consistent with evolving intellects.
    CO2emission likes this.
  9. 1
    Quote from oncnursemsn
    Excellent descriptions of different learning styles. At my small ADN program, we have lecture for 4.5 hours (8:30am to 1pm.) Most of us teach via passive learning, that is lecture with Power Point slides- and by about 12n, it's very hard to keep everyone's attention. Yet, there is so much content that has to be covered. Other then dynamic slides, interesting anecdotes, how does one keep today's learner awake and interested for this long? I can't remember when I went to nsg school, but I'm pretty sure I didn't have nearly 5 hours of class!

    The new buzz word we're learning is "simulation" and not just "Sim Man" and Sim Baby. Any insights on this form of learning? (Thanks! You've been a wealth of information!)
    I'm not sure active/passive is about different learning styles...it's more about teaching styles. Learning should be student-centred not teacher-centred. And does it have to be one or/vs the other? Can you not have both? As for simulated learning... a word of caution, it often has no context which removes it from left field thinking. If you are using "Sim" equipment there is a medical appliance company making a lot of money out of it. It's not a one size fits all. And I think you'll find the evidence/research to support it has been backed by one of those companies although it wouldn't be evident in the reference list.
    The spatial awareness of learners is changing and I don't think it is useful to talk about how we learned nor try to imitate it. We are talking about the Y generation and thei generation. Neural pathways are forming in different ways. Here is a powerful piece about today's learners. Draw your own conclusion and think about cognitivism and social constructs. I think you will be able to come up with some flexible options. Use the full screen and have the sound on. Enjoy
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o
    VickyRN likes this.
  10. 2
    I understand the advantages and disadvantages of both styles of learning but I must say this. My ADN program has decided to start teaching us through the active learning technique in our LAST semester. I feel that this decision was completely wrong and they should start it with the beginning students and keep it going as they advance through the program. Many of us have adapted to our ways of learning the information and knowing how to apply it. Due to their decision to change their way of teaching, students are now failing that were previously passing. We feel like we are not being taught and we are being used as guinea pigs for the students that will follow us.
    VickyRN and lamazeteacher like this.
  11. 1
    We're always guinea pigs for whoever follows us.....

    Change is disturbing, because it thwarts expectations.

    Then again, you could say to yourself: Neat! Even though it came through at the end, this is an opportunity to learn a new way! (Yah, I know that's not the 1st, 2nd or 3rd reaction, but if you can get there, do get there, as the alternative is what your classmates found out - failing.)

    When I was very young, I was oppositional to teachers who didn't do it my way, and I'd not open a book or do any assignments for their class, to show them what lousy teachers they were. Guess who suffered........
    VickyRN likes this.
  12. 1
    Vicky,
    A good review between passive and active learning.
    I think it more important to dialogue with the students than relying only on technology. Sim Man has a place, but that should not be the only answer. I try to vary my teaching styles in the classroom (pediatrics, ADN program). Students have responded favorably indicating it keeps them on their toes never knowing if it will be a Power Point day, lecture/ discussion or lecture and group work. Students have actually told me that they do not like having all Power Points. They zone out. Lose their focus and rely on the written words missing other dialogue because of it.
    I have to admit that the class size is usually between 20 and 40 so that it is easier for me to accommodate student's differing learning styles as well as have an opportunity to get to know the students individually.
    VickyRN likes this.


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