This book is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between a number of academics at the University of Sussex, who are all members of the Active Learning Network. The network is an international network that aims to bring together academics, industry partners, those working in education more generally including students themselves, to discuss, collaborate and share good practice in active learning.
Active learning involves engaging students in activities that often enable them to produce an end product of their learning. It moves students away from the rote learning that is increasingly endemic in the exam-focused system of schools, to learning which values their personal contribution and effort. Active learning, by its very nature, fosters creativity and innovation, qualities favoured by employees in a rapidly evolving digital workplace. The proliferation of active learning as a philosophy and practice in many higher education institutions is testament to the increasing recognition of its importance in preparing students for both the workplace and life-long learning.
Modelling the process is essential. What is good for students is good for us as pedagogical practitioners. In the true spirit of active learning, we ourselves ventured into the unknown in the process of publishing this book, beginning with three “book sprints”, where we came together to plan, write and edit our individual chapter contributions.
The chapters cover everything from taking an active approach to designing and developing modules to using the principles of Argentine Tango to teach concepts of business and leadership. We explore the world of active essay writing and attempts to turn the feedback process from a static and passive activity for both marker and student to one which involves the student in actively engaging visually with feedback. There are chapters on specialism based learning where students become the experts within their discipline, on active approaches to supporting international students and on the strengths and the pitfalls of using team based learning as an active pedagogical approach.
Within each chapter, we have given an outline of what we did and what worked well but also what didn’t go to plan, what needed modification or what was unexpected. The point of this is to demonstrate how we all moved out of our comfort zone in trying out new pedagogical practices. We often hit upon unexpected outcomes that required us to innovate or amend our approaches further and we wanted to share this as much as the bits that worked well. In moving out of our comfort zone, the hope is that we can encourage students and employees to do the same. In this way, creativity, innovation and meaningful learning, it is hoped, can be fostered.
As in all good stories, there is a cliffhanger but in this book it is simply the anticipation of what comes next. As the variety and diversity of active learning progresses, we envisage many more reflections of this kind including contributions for members of our other network groups, promoting the sharing of good practice and the continued collaboration of all.
Wendy Garnham, Tab Betts and Paolo Oprandi
Active Learning Network