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What Is Activity-Based Teaching?

By G. Wiesen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Activity-based teaching is an approach to education focusing on the idea that students should be engaged through actions. This is in contrast to some traditional forms of teaching in which an educator lectures or otherwise relays information to students who are expected to absorb what they are told. In activity-based teaching, an educator serves the function of facilitator, assisting students through the learning process and providing them with guidance. Various actions and tasks can be used in this type of program, allowing students to become directly involved in the learning process, rather than remaining passive.

The purpose of activity-based teaching is for an educator to engage students directly, drawing them into a lesson so that they become a participant in their own learning. Some traditional forms of education often relied upon the educator as a knowledgeable expert who simply provided information to students. In this type of environment, the learners were expected to act as sponges that absorbed information, regardless of any particular type of effort made on their behalf. The students were taught, but there was not necessarily a focus upon them being a participant and actively learning while in a classroom.

In activity-based teaching, however, the educator uses different methods to draw the students into the lesson and make them a partner in their own education. The role of the teacher in this type of environment is to serve as a facilitator to the students, engaging them and making sure they become active in the learning process. This is often accomplished through the creation of different activities and projects that students work on as they learn. Activity-based teaching requires a great deal of effort on the part of the educator. Teachers using this method need to create lessons and plans that provide students with opportunities to take part in their education.

Group work is quite common during activity-based teaching, since it allows students to take on the role of educator and work together to better understand different subjects. In these lessons, students work together in small groups to complete a particular project. Each group then presents information learned after performing the task assigned to it to the rest of the class. The educator in this form of activity-based teaching can observe each group and ensure they stay on task, but otherwise may not need to provide much additional information. As the groups present what they have learned, the teacher guides discussion and ensures that errors are not presented, though otherwise the students become responsible for their own learning.

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Discussion Comments

By indigomoth — On May 19, 2013

@browncoat - I think that you really have to step away from the idea of the teacher transmitting all the information to passive students and get them to learn how to find things out for themselves.

The world is bursting with information these days and schools are no longer the sole dispensers of it. It's much better for students to learn how to find things out, rather than just be given information that they could look up online anyway.

Unfortunately, I think most schools are still teaching the old fashioned way, which involves a whole lot of reading and listening to the teacher speak, rather than seeking out and creating your own knowledge.

By browncoat — On May 18, 2013

@Fa5t3r - It doesn't all have to be like that, you can still have some memorizing. In fact, you'll almost have to, since most kids have to take external exams and if they don't know all their terms they won't go very far in those.

But real hands on activities are definitely better than just passively sitting around in the classroom. We've learned it as "project based learning" rather than "activity based learning" but it's the same kind of idea.

By Fa5t3r — On May 17, 2013

The main thing to remember when it comes to activity based learning, is that it's not enough for the students to be doing what can be called an activity. They could be doing a crossword, for example, or using flashcards, or (and this is a common one) doing an "experiment" where they already know the answer.

They will learn whatever it is that they do, not whatever content has been heaped on top of it. So they won't learn the terms in the crossword, they will learn how to complete crosswords. They won't learn the definitions on the flashcards, they will only memorize them temporarily.

And, with the experiment, they will just learn that the white substance turns green when you add it to water, but nothing to do with chemical properties.

The activity has to have actual meaning. If you want them to learn about food, get them to cook. If you want them to learn about mathematics, get them to calculate how long the streamers need to be for the prom.

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