It’s not me, it’s you.’ Whoops. That doesn’t sound nice, but it might be true.

Think about the last time you were at a training or workshop.

How much of what you learned do you remember? More importantly, how much of what you remember do you actually use in daily (work), life? This is the amount you actually “learned.” So, if your answer is none or not much, then it really is you and you need to do better. But don’t worry, you’re not alone in this.

We don’t think learning should be a complacent act, nor do we think it should be easy. This does not only apply to the learner. The instructor needs to force learners to fully engage with the lesson. With both a bit outside their comfort zone, truly efficient and active learning can begin.

Words of wisdom

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn,” has its earliest reflection in the writings of Xunzi (Xun Kuang), a Confucian philosopher from the 3rd century B.C. Each element of this quote reflects a style of teaching and learning.

Understanding how you’ve been taught in the past can enlighten you to how you want to learn now and in the future.

Tell me and I forget

Think about that last training again. It’s likely that you were not that involved in the activities, nor your learning process. But honestly, how could you be?

The usual training styles and courses consist of  massive open, online courses (MOOCs), articles, or instructional videos and fall under the traditional learning method. They impart knowledge to learners but require little input or engagement– just go through all the materials and you’ve completed the course. And there is no guarantee you’ve actually learned anything. The information is consumed, but because it goes without adequate interaction, it is quickly forgotten.

Teach me and I remember

Even with training that are rich in workshops and activities, the information processing (learning), ends once the activity is complete. The active learning objective is to get people to engage with the information and their learning process that lasts long after the activities are over.

As adults, our learning comes from a perspective of pre-learned knowledge and experiences. The process that we go through to understand and absorb new information is based first on how relevant it might be to our own learning goals and needs. Then, what we find mandatory such as something for our careers or self-improvement. And finally, our interests.

Are all adults active learners, then? The short answer, no. Just because you remember the information, doesn’t mean you were or are an active learner.

Involve me and I learn.

But I did participate in the training, you might argue. Okay, that’s a valid point, but let’s consider how you engaged with it.

According to Stanford University, active learning is not just listening and doing activities, you need to be critical thinker during the lecture, an enthusiastic collaborator during discussions and activities, and take the lesson home with you to implement it daily.

However, you shouldn’t carry all the weight during your learning process. The instructor or tools you choose to use need to force you to apply yourself at every opportunity.

They shouldn’t be satisfied with simple answers and neither should you.

E-learning with Active Learning

Active learning methods for adults have been gaining traction in educational fields including many E-learning opportunities such as with Duolingo, Moodle, and Blackboard. But while you can see the benefits of the lessons and complete them at your own convenience, you must do the last step of being a critical thinker yourself.

Good E-learning tools should force opportunities on you that require your analytical mind and direct application of the learned material. After that, it is up to you to be an active learner.

Tactical learning approaches

We suggest you first define your learning needs and goals. See how the lessons can help you reach them. If the lessons match your needs, then you’ll want to prepare for them.

-          Don’t rely solely on the lessons to get you to your goals: do some outside reading, research, or activities that stimulate your learning process. This could be anything from playing around in PowerPoint or attempting to read a children’s book in another language.

-          Stay engaged and do some critical analysis of the information: don’t just take notes, write down your questions and ideas too.

-          Invest in the lesson: implement the information at home and keep using it until it’s more like a habit than a memory.

Reap the benefits of active learning

We aren’t saying you’ve been learning wrong. We just know that you can do better. The harder you work at being an active learner during presentations, workshops, or with E-learning tools, the more progress and success you’ll see in your personal and work life.