What are the benefits of active learning and co-operative working? In order to answer this question it is important to understand what the term ‘active learning’ actually means. When doing a bit of research on the topic, I found a video which gives a good explanation for people who have never heard of active learning before.
As the video explains, active learning is about getting more involved in your studies by discussing topics with peers, in lectures or online. I think that one of the main benefits of this approach is that you are able to be more focussed and engaged in what you are learning. Not only are you able to confirm what you know by speaking it aloud or writing it down but you have the opportunity to hear someone else’s take on the topic.
I personally enjoy taking part in group discussions as it enables you to voice thoughts that you have had on particular topic areas and allows others to add their views, meaning you learn something from one other. I have found that something sticks in my head more if I have had the opportunity to talk to someone about it. Active learning makes me feel like I have contributed to the lecture rather than just having sat back and listened to someone talk for an hour.
Co-operative working tasks encourage people to get to know one another, make links and form a support network that is really beneficial, particularly if you are struggling with an area of your studies. It also makes your time at university more enjoyable if you are working alongside friends that you can work collaboratively with.
Overall, active learning and co-operative working are easy ways to make studying seem less of a chore and allow people to express their views in an open environment, where people are ready to teach one another as well as being taught by tutors and lecturers.
As a child I never felt particularly categorised or stereotyped because of my gender but after our discussions in the lecture this morning, I realised that it played quite a big role in my primary school life. At the time it seemed perfectly normal to be sat ‘boy, girl, boy, girl’ in the classroom or to be partnered with a boy for social dancing. Thinking back on this now it all seems quite ridiculous that so much depended on whether we were a boy or a girl.
I remember a teacher who always used to say,
“Come on boys, the girls are beating you again!”
As a girl I was given the impression that boys were silly and didn’t care about their work because they always distracted us or got into trouble for not concentrating hard enough. I was always the well behaved, hard working child who had to sit between two boys if they were distracting one another. This happened on several occasions and I distinctly remember the teacher apologising to me and saying that it wasn’t because I had been bad but because I was a good influence on the boys. Not once do I remember a boy being sat between two girls for the same reason.
In the playground we used to play ‘boys chase girls’ or ‘girls chase boys’ which shows how the two genders actually teamed up against each other. Similarly, at sports day we had the ‘girl races’ and the ‘boy races’. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
At the end of our first lecture on Sociology I was intrigued to find out more about the subject and get stuck in to our Tutor Directed Task (TDT). We were asked to watch the above video and reflect on what we had just seen.
When reflecting on this video I found myself writing a list of questions, rather than coming up with any answers. These are questions that I wanted to share with you as a way of seeing if anyone had an idea of possible answers to these questions but also so that I could look back and see if I could answer these questions for myself in the future.
1. How can we change the way we teach children so that they all believe they are equal?
2. How can we embrace the exciting society we are living in but not let horror stories from the media take over?
3. Is it possible to make the classroom a fun and active environment whilst sticking to a rigid curriculum?
4. Is there any scope for intergenerational learning and a mixed age education system?
5. How can we encourage more divergent thinking in the classroom?
6. Should adults be taught about divergent thinking through interaction with pre-school children?
Since embarking on the journey to Higher Education I have been repeatedly asked the same key questions; What are you going to be studying? What made you choose teaching? Why Dundee? For me personally, I think it’s more a question of why teaching chose me.
As a child in primary school I always hated to see people “cheating” or simply telling their friends the answer to a tricky question. I always thought it made much more sense to find another way of explaining the task so that they would learn for the next time. My mum always tells the story of when she was at my primary 1 parent’s night. I was in a composite p1/2 class and the teacher said that I had been teaching the primary 2s maths! This story always makes me think that although I’ve always aspired to be a teacher it is also something that has always come naturally to me.
As someone who has had a really positive primary and secondary school experience, I want the same experience to be had by any young person that I am given the opportunity to influence. A big part of who I am as a person comes from the opportunities I have had to explore different areas of the Curriculum, particularly music and modern languages.
When I was in primary 5 I started to learn to play the violin and joined the school choir and recorder groups. Being so musically involved at an early age gave me the confidence to speak out in groups of people and express how I feel. If you can sing it, why not say it?
This early confidence inspired me to join many of the music groups offered in secondary school. I played a key role as a member in the school orchestra, ukulele group and choir and performed in many school concerts and shows throughout my time at school. At the start of fifth year I decided to take on a further role by starting and leading my own a cappella group. This provided a space for young people to come and express themselves, no matter of age, gender or ability. It was a very freeing environment as this was a group led by pupils and allowed for a space, once a week, to just get a little bit crazy! This group became very important to me as a support network and a way of making friends in different year groups. Below is a clip from my 18th birthday celebrations, when my a cappella group really made me proud by putting together their own arrangement to say thank you for the work I had done with the group throughout my fifth and sixth year.
It is hard to put into words how much this meant to me as this was a group that I had not only created but had seen grow and develop over the two years that I worked with them. This is a key aspect as to why I think teaching is such a great profession to go into. Not only do you give something to others but you get so much back from the experience. In this particular case I was filled with an amazing sense of pride for what this group had achieved and I am very pleased to say that the group is still running now that I have left school.
In my last year of school I was also given the opportunity to assist one of the Modern Languages teachers at a local primary school, teaching German to p6s and French to p7s. As well as this I assisted in her S1 German class and was given the opportunity to take parts of the lessons. These experiences were invaluable to me as I really found my feet in the classroom setting as a teacher rather than as a pupil. Who knew that writing on the whiteboard would be so difficult? A great website that we used a lot in the ML department was linguascope.com. The school had to pay to access a user name and password but it is such a great resource that I often refer back to, even at Advanced Higher level!
Something that I really enjoy is when the combination of music and languages come together. We were often encouraged to learn German, French and Spanish through song. There are a couple of examples below.
As you can see these videos covered a wide range of topics from months of the year, to colours, seasons, festivals, daily routine and so much more. I often found myself referring to a song in my head during a languages exam to remember a bit of vocabulary.
All in all, I think I would summarise this piece by saying that teaching is something I’ve always known I have wanted to do and with the amount of resources and subjects we have to play with it is going to be a very exciting time.