Facts Based Lecturing vs Activity Based Learning

There are two ways of presenting the learning. One is through lecturing and the other is through example or experimentation.

Conventional method of instruction is through lecturing. The teacher stands in front of the class and presents a carefully prepared lecture explaining the fundamental concepts and highlighting them using white board, pictures drawn on the board, or through description of scenerios. This method assumes that the child has enough experience of real life world to associate the concepts with the real life phenomena being discussed. This fails when the student does not have enough of exposure of the real life which is typically the case today when children spend all their lives in small appartments and have not had the luxury of running in the wild open country playing with nature.

The other way of presentation is to make the students first experience the phenomenon through an activity, experiment or a model. Given such an exposure the language of the concepts becomes clearer and the student is better able to associate the concept with the experience and retain it for a longer period of time.

For example, if the lecture is on lever and the teacher highlights how a greater load can be lifted by lengthening the force arm and applying lesser force, and decreasing the weight arm and lifting a greater load. However, this assumes that the student has enough of the experience of lifting heavier loads using iron rods and stuff lifting them up by varying the lenght of the force arm. However, increasingly the students coming to the class have had no or little experience of playing with rocks, boulders and other stuff in open country. They can not relate to the example if they had not tried hard to remove a boulder or rock from its mooring using a lever. The struggle would have laid the foundation for the concepts.

Another example, is the concept of a centrifugal force making an object moving in a circle to fly off at a tangent. All this terminology will only make sense if the child has tied some heavier object to a string and has made it to fly in a circle and then letting off the string to see the trajectory of the movement when the centripetal force is removed.

Why does a cyclist has to bend inward as he negotiates a sharp turn, can only be highlighted in terms of centripetal and centrifugal force for those who has rode the bicycle and has experienced the sharp turns and the consequences of not bending inwards or consequences of negotiating a sharp term where the road is littered with slippery sand.

Our retention of concepts is easier, effortless and longer term if it is associated with an exciting activity. This is the essence of activity based learning. Make the student feel and experience the concept in a live setting. The curiosity and the spirit of positive competition, improvisation and innovation that accompanies such physical experiences is tremendous and exhilirating for the student as well as the teachers. Teachers using the activity based learning often highlight their surprise at the unexpected variations that a child is capable of coming up with enhancing their learning to areas not intended in the original plan.

Please note that activity based learning is not filling up of worksheets. I repeat, filling of predesigned worksheets is NOT activity based learning.