3. Improve your teaching practices

What is active learning?

In active learning, the learners actively participate in their own learning experience. It is the opposite of learners passively sitting while their teachers drill information into their heads. Teachers have many teaching methods at their disposal, to encourage active learning. The CAPS curriculum for the Commerce subjects recommend project work and problem-solving tasks to encourage active learning.

Why active learning?

Both the CAPS curriculum and international ESD guidelines promote active learning. Why? When learners actively explore an issue, they are more likely to develop an interest in it, and their curiosity drives learning. When learners actively come up with solutions, they can develop a sense of agency and ‘can-do’ attitude which is so important for entrepreneurs and active citizens alike. When they try out their solutions, e.g. in a project, they develop a whole range of important academic and life skills. When they reflect on the outcomes of their efforts, their learning deepens even further. Active learning is important for responsible citizens and higher order skills. It is informed by constructivist and socio-cultural theories of learning.

Active teaching and learning in CAPS

For more about this topic, have a look at this Fundisa for Change booklet on the Active Teaching and Learning in CAPS. This booklet suggests that we need both a content rich curriculum, and activities for learners to actively engage and develop the required learning outcomes. The booklet introduces the metaphors of “learning through acquisition” and “learning through participation”, from the educator-researcher Anna Sfard. Teachers are encouraged to plan their teaching and learning activities for BOTH!

Methods and processes for teaching ESD

If learners are to be prepared to become responsible citizens and entrepreneurs, it is important that they are actively engaged in learning in ways that model sustainability. There are so many ways in which this can be done: through learner and group projects, learner-led investigations, action projects to tackle a problem, field trips, enquiries based on visits to landfill sights or recycling depots … even through a good lecture or a video clip as an inspiring starting point! In this slide presentation, we explore the active learning model developed by Professor Rob O’Donoghue a bit more closely, and in the three exemplars available here (#1#2#3), you can see how the active learning model can be put into action using simple classroom practices.

For more ideas, and importantly, for the educational thinking behind the different methods and processes, have a look at the Fundisa for Change PDF below.

The purpose of the booklet is:

  • To help us as educators broaden the range of methods we are comfortable to use.
  • To encourage us to think more carefully about how we use methods, and about the assumptions we hold about learning and teaching.
  • To enrich our methodological frameworks so we can use our methods with greater educational intent, towards stronger learning outcomes.