As we continue talking about approaches to learning, let’s look at the differences between passive and active learning. Passive learning occurs when the student receives the information, stores it as it was received, and repeats the information in papers or on exams the way it was provided. This is seen in many traditional lecture-style classes. The instructor lectures while the student takes notes. To study, the student rereads the textbook and copies the notes. The student then reproduces the content material in the way it was given to them by the instructor and textbook with little variation or deeper understanding.
Active learning occurs when the student is engaged in activities “that require them to take greater responsibility for the knowledge they gain,” (D. Whittaker, as cited in Flora, 2013). Active learning can include many different approaches and activities, but common characteristics often include reflection, application, and personalization. Even if a class is set up as a traditional lecture, a student can approach the coursework as an active learner. For example, the student writes down ideas of examples of the material and questions during a lecture. Outside of class, the student looks for real-life examples of the material or metaphors. They add to the material from the class and textbook by considering outside materials and linking concepts to other information they already know. To study, the student may organize the information, evaluate it from multiple angles, and practice teaching it to others. The student is able to discuss and answer questions on the content from an understanding deeper than just what was provided by lecture or text.
When you are tutoring, you want the student to take responsibility for their own learning and be actively engaged in how they think about the material. It is easy to want to answer a tutee’s question or solve the problem for them, but as previously discussed, it is important to remember that the person solving the problem or explaining the concept is learning more than the listener. To help the tutee personalize the information, see if they can make connections or metaphors that relate the material to their favorite sport, strongest subject, or other interest. When giving problems or examples, see if you can relate it back to the tutee's interests or strengths.
If getting your tutoring sessions to include active learning is the goal, what types of learning and review activities could you incorporate?
Click on Fig 1.5 for some examples, activities, and tips to get you started.
Keep in mind that these activities might not work for everyone or for every subject. This list isn’t exhaustive, but just a starting place. What ideas do you have for the material you tutor on?