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Published on December 9, 2019

Passive Learning vs Active Learning: Which Is More Effective?

Passive Learning vs Active Learning: Which Is More Effective?

Learning has been one essential trait that sets successful people apart. Keeping yourself up to date and learning new stuff is not just a survival tactic. It is one of the few finer things of life that makes everything seem interesting and worthwhile. The more you learn, the broader your vision becomes and you realize that there is still more to learn.

But here is the catch: not everyone can learn at the same pace and reap its benefits to the maximum. It is also not assured that one technique that works for someone will work for everybody. Learning is a personal effort and the level of involvement and techniques used could greatly influence the potential benefits of learning something.

No matter what the subject matter you are trying to learn, be it theoretical or practical, there are certain common variables involved. One of those is the method you choose to learn anything. It could be either passive learning or active learning — two distinct styles of learning.

Let us look deep to understand how these two distinct modes of learning affect your learning capabilities and the knowledge retaining capabilities.

What Is Passive Learning?

Passive learning is mostly considered as a one-way effort from the learner.[1]

In this style of learning, the learner is expected to assimilate information from the facts and details presented and absorb knowledge passively. The traditional learning approaches like seminars, lectures, textbooks, presentations, online lectures and courses where communication is mostly one-way can be considered to be the examples of passive learning.

The responsibility for understanding the material falls on the learner who is expected to be concentrating on the lessons taught and doing well on their tests.

Passive learning leans more towards the theoretical side. Assessment techniques like quizzes, exams, and handouts are used to evaluate the learning progress.

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Some of the key skills that passive learning helps improve are:

  • Writing skills
  • Listening skills
  • Organization skills

What Is Active Learning?

Active learning is when the process of learning involves active participation in the form of relevant activities and discussions.[2] It enforces full engagement from the learner and does not rely on traditional lectures or textbook information alone.

Active learning encourages interactive learning sessions and promotes critical thinking.[3] Some common examples of active learning include:

  • Hands-on experiments and workshops
  • Group discussions on solving problems
  • Peer discussions and instruction on lessons
  • Games, activities, and projects that aim to simplify the learning process and gain practical experience.

Active learning focuses on the big picture rather than limiting itself to the problem at hand.[4] It encourages lateral thinking and allows students to make connections to real-world problems easily.

Learning becomes much more than knowing stuff and is steered towards a complete understanding of the concepts in relevance to the real world.

Some key skills that active learning helps sharpen are:

  • Analysis
  • Evaluation
  • Public speaking
  • Collaboration

There is constant feedback between the learner and the tutor, allowing for a better understanding of the material and fine-tuning teaching methodologies that best suit the corresponding environment.

Active Learning vs Passive Learning

The major trait that distinguishes these styles of learning is the way students are expected to apply their thought process into learning.[5]

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While active learning encourages a subjective way of divergent thinking, passive learning promotes convergent thinking where knowing the definite answers to problems marks the progress.

Both styles have their pros and cons. Both have certain scenarios where it is more suitable than the other.

Here’re their main differences:[6]

Communication

In passive learning, communication is one way. This mode is the go-to method when you are trying to learn something by yourself especially through the internet and online courses.

Self-learning is mostly a passive process that relies on the learner’s commitment. On the other hand, active learning encourages the communication between learner groups, discussions, and interactive Q&A sessions.

Control

The control of source material and learning artifacts, in passive learning, lie mostly with the educator. Learners work with what they get and are not expected to add more to the materials.

However, this is not the case in active learning where learners are encouraged to seek out new information and discuss various possibilities.

Evaluation

In passive learning, evaluation methods are defined strictly. There is only one right answer. On the other hand, evaluation methods are flexible in active learning. They are more focused on cementing the understanding rather than testing. This allows for big-picture thinking.

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When a learner loses commitment, passive learning can suffer as there is very little external motivation or push to steer the learning place. Whereas active learning demands interactive effort to be put in from learner groups as well their teaching partners to be successful.

What Is the Best Way to Learn Effectively?

As mentioned earlier, both active and passive learning have their own territories where they work best.

While active learning can find positive results in a group study environment, passive learning is much appreciated when a driven learner wants to get the maximum benefits without interference.

Passive learning refocuses the learner and places emphasis on the educator and learning materials. This is much more useful when someone is trying to self-learn using books and online lectures and course materials. It involves little discussion and is more steered towards knowledge acquirement than exploration. This type of focused learning can be helpful when you are preparing for competitive exams.

Active learning, on the other hand, is best used when you try to explore more and find connections in the real world from what you learn. This places emphasis on asking questions, taking extra effort to explore and finding new materials and information.

So what is the ideal way to learn?

The best way to learn then is to find your purpose for learning and apply the style that best matches it.

If you are trying to ace a written exam or pass through a technical interview with set answers, passive learning is quite good to go.

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But if you need to develop your analytical skills and find newer solutions, active learning is best advised as it provides a much richer learning experience. But active learning with no focused approach can make the learner stray off-topic.

Active learning activities must be carefully designed to provide room for exploration without losing sight of the learning progress. Hence, feedback evaluation should be a necessary part of active learning.

Memorization plays an important role in passive learning whereas memory is strengthened by association through active learning.

One has to be both a passive learner capable of collecting information from set materials and still be willing to actively explore and seek out new information to be really successful in self-learning.

Passive learning like lectures and presentations are also a crucial part of active learning environments as they are more efficient in content delivery and regulating the scope of learning.

Incorporating Both Styles of Learning

Both passive and active learning methods can be made components of the learning experience to ensure better engagement.

Some ways self-learning can be designed to incorporate both styles of learning to achieve better results are:

  • Course media like lectures and videos can act as the starting point of the learning experience.
  • A list of topics like syllabus used in passive learning can be applied and then expanded upon as required to make room for active learning as and when a new subtopic or material is discovered.
  • Passive learners can seek out peers in online forums, fellow students or experts to further gain insights into their subject matter.
  • Along with traditional evaluation techniques, project-based learning can help in motivating a self-learner to better understand the subject. Projects require active participation and make sure the learner is engaged is committed to the learning process.

When it comes to learning, it is wise not to disregard both the modes of learning. Initial knowledge transfer, obviously, requires passive learning. But gaining deeper insights invariably require more engaging active learning activities.

Apply the best methods as it suits you and be committed to your learning efforts to unlock the potential you have.

More About Learning Fast

Featured photo credit: Avel Chuklanov via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] IGI Global: What is Passive Learning
[2] Cynthia J. Brame, PhD, CFT Assistant Director: Active Learning
[3] J Undergrad Neurosci Educ.: Active Learning for Students and Faculty
[4] Pearson: What does research say about active learning?
[5] Next Gen Learning: Moving from Passive to Active Learning: Four Ways to Overcome Student Resistance
[6] University of Florida: Active vs. Passive Learning in Online Courses

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on May 13, 2020

9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use

9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use

Language learning apps are not only useful but also incredibly entertaining and fun. With our current ability to use language tools on the go, this is the golden age of language apps.

While they won’t replace real human interactions, language learning apps are an invaluable resource for learning the basics of a new language or for translating words in real-time.

There are hundreds of language learning apps being launched on a weekly basis, and it can be confusing to differentiate what’s useful from what’s not.

To help you save time, I’ve curated 9 free language learning apps that you should try and experiment with on your own.

1. Duolingo

    Duolingo is one of the most popular language tools out there. It’s perfect for beginners looking to dip their feet into learning a new foreign language. The site’s gamified approach to learning makes it fun to learn vocabulary, grammar, and basic words.

    Get the app here!

    2. Busuu

      Busuu offers a similar language learning experience in which you mix speaking, listening, writing, and reading activities. This helps you acquire a basic understanding of your target language.

      Get the app here!

      3. Babbel

        Babbel is an inexpensive and fun tool that uses algorithms to personalize your language learning experience. It is voiced by native speakers so you’ll also learn the proper pronunciations of words much easier.

        Get the app here!

        4. Ankiweb

          Anki has been around for a while, and its design is unique compared to other free language learning apps. It’s an electronic flashcard tool that makes it easy for you to remember phrases and words in a foreign language.

          Get the app here!

          5. Memrise

            Memrise is one of the leading platforms for memorizing anything. It’s mainly focused on language learning, but you can also use it to memorize words from certain fields and disciplines. You can use it to memorize vocabulary for your SAT exam, biology exam, etc.

            Get the app here!

            6. Tinycards

              Tinycards is an application launched by Duolingo. It’s a free and fun flashcard app that you can take on the go. You can choose from thousands of topics that have been created for you or create your own decks.

              Get the app here!

              7. Quizlet

                Quizlet is another free language learning app that offers more than learning language. It features free quizzes that help you learn just about anything. “Flashcards” is one of their most popular features, but you can also take tests, play games, or create your own quizzes to share with friends.

                Get the app here!

                8. Rype

                rype

                  Rype is a monthly membership site that connects you with fully-vetted professional language teachers for 1/10th of the price of a leading language school. Lessons are as short as 30 minutes, and you can schedule them at any time of the day, and any day of the week. For anyone with the desire to speak a foreign language fluently, Rype is worth checking out.

                  Get the app here!

                  9. Mindsnacks

                    Mindsnacks is another useful but also entertaining free language learning app. It offers fun brain games that you can play to activate your mind while also learning a foreign language. That’s hitting two birds with one stone!

                    Get the app here!

                    Final Thoughts

                    Learning another language gets harder as we age, but this shouldn’t stop us from trying. In fact, it’s much easier now to learn a new language because of the abundance of resources in our time.

                    So, check these apps out and try them for yourself!

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