What is Active Learning and How Can Schools Promote It?

what is active learning

If I ask you to recall an unforgettable moment from your school days, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

You’ll most likely remember an exhilarating prom night or an embarrassing moment instead of a boring class lecture. This is because emotion enhances our memories. Emotions serve as a highlighter that emphasizes specific experiences in life to make them memorable. This is not a new concept, and educators worldwide take advantage of this phenomenon by including fun and physical activities in their lessons. In a nutshell, teachers use a technique called active learning in class. 

What is active learning?

Active learning is a teaching method where educators actively engage students with the lessons through discussions, role plays, and other methods. Unlike lectures where students passively listen, active learning encourages students to move around and use their other senses to understand the lesson fully. It typically involves students working together on projects to inspire teamwork and enhance their soft skills. 

Active learning can range from simple activities like reflection or journal writing to large group projects such as thesis and case studies inside or outside the classroom. By having group projects outside school, students can explore different life skills and be exposed to various environments outside the four walls of the classroom. 

Although active learning encourages teachers to think outside the box and teach students differently, this does not mean teachers must abandon the lecture format. Rather, educators can add small active learning techniques to make the lessons more engaging and effective for student learning. The goal, after all, is to help learners understand the lessons from a different perspective and help them retain the information in a fun and memorable way. 

Why is active learning important for students?


Active learning is easier said than done. Compared to traditional lectures, active learning requires teachers to put in additional effort to prepare materials and lessons that fit their students’ learning styles. However, when active learning is applied in class, especially to younger learners, it can greatly impact their desire to learn and absorb new information.

Active learning encourages students to learn useful life skills. When students actively participate in activities and can voice their opinions, they become more involved and responsible for their own learning. This is because they are more aware that their opinions can impact themselves and those around them, like their classmates or group members. 

Another reason why active learning is important is that it makes learning more productive and fun. When the lessons and learning environment are flexible, students take ownership of their learning, making it more meaningful. When there is a sense of ownership, it naturally encourages responsibility and improves self-awareness. 

Lastly, the variety in active learning makes going to school a fun experience. Students who view school with curiosity and wonder will learn to love learning. The desire for life-long learning is a powerful tool that can give children a huge advantage over their peers when they enter the working world.

5 Benefits of Active Learning


1. Develops soft skills

Active learning helps students learn to communicate well, work with others, and develop soft skills. Moreover, active learning enhances students’ emotional quotient, a valuable skill to learn, especially as they grow older and realize they cannot do everything on their own.

2. Teaches students to take risks

Because active learning encourages students to take ownership of their work, they learn to take responsibility and become accountable for their actions. When students take the initiative and decide for their team, this requires a certain level of risk, considering there is a chance that what they’re doing could fail. 

3. Shapes critical and creative thinking

In active learning, students have to be persistent at the same time, have careful consideration of their beliefs. They must analyze and evaluate their work based on prior knowledge.

Aside from critical thinking, students must also be creative in generating new ideas and thinking out of the box. With active learning, students learn to make connections from abstract ideas and create something new from the lessons discussed in class. 

4. Improves learning retention

Because active learning encourages students to take action and actively participate in the learning process, they are more likely to personalize the process and feel connected to their work. When this happens, the connection elicits certain emotions, which enhances their retention. 

5. Encourages real problem solving

Lastly, active learning encourages students to practice their problem-solving skills. When allowed to solve a challenge instead of just passively taking in information, they get to practice their creative thinking skills. This boosts their ability to think creatively and find unique solutions to real-world problems. 

Examples of active learning activities

Group projects

As the name suggests, group projects are a collaborative activity where students work together to reach a common goal. In group projects, students learn to be patient and adapt to their differences in working styles. Collaboration may come naturally to some and be more challenging to others. Nevertheless, learning to socialize and work with others is an essential life skill that children need to learn at a young age.


Debates are formal discussions wherein people can test their higher-order and critical thinking skills. Debate teaches students to research and separate facts from biased opinions in class. It also lets them flex their analytical muscles and learn to find their opponent’s weak points. Debates are a chance for students who are not as confident to learn to stand their ground and be composed and respectful when stating their side. In a nutshell, debates test and build students’ abilities to see both sides of the same issue. 


Role-playing is acting out the part of a person or character and is a fun way to integrate active learning in class. In role-playing, students learn to put themselves in others’ shoes. Depending on the situation to act, this activity could also help students understand what it’s like to be in real-world scenarios. Role-playing is a creative process that helps students enhance their cognitive, emotional, physical, and language development. 

How does D-PREP promote active learning in the classroom?

D-PREP International School promotes active learning through its curriculum designed for experiential learning. In experiential learning, students “learn by doing” and reflecting on their experience. At D-PREP, students take ownership of their learning through their Unit of Inquiry (UOI), where they explore a central idea and form connections between what they learned and how it relates to the world around them. 

Aside from learning and reflecting, D-PREP also guides students to work on relevant projects that contribute to societies outside the classroom. One example of this is the recent outreach program that the middle school students conducted wherein they donated food and spent the day with the homeless in Bangkok, understanding their lives on the ground level, and looking for ways to help them.

Under the Expeditionary Learning system, D-PREP’s middle school students went to Koh Kood, where they studied the ecology of coral reefs and their relationship to human communities. They also explored the local fishing community, guided by the village mayor, before making coral nurseries to be replanted on the reef.

At the core of D-PREP’s lessons is the life skills framework. In the Learning Expedition, “Who is Thailand?” Students explore how people from different walks of life, particularly during the reign of King Rama 9, developed life skills to be active citizens who can persevere through difficult times. In this fieldwork, the middle school students learned to interview journalists and gathered the stories of inspiring people in Thailand. They then worked with photography experts and learned to take professional photos for their final project, a book titled “Who is Thailand?” 

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