Active Learning: Knowing Something Without Knowing It!

The concept of active learning has been advertised for a long time now. Although we can say that many of the educators from younger generations have an idea of the term, it looks like there are still problems in the application.

Is it possible to know something without knowing it?

The answer for this tricky question is yes. One can call it intuition, gut feeling or the sixth sense. Here I am trying to talk about something else. So many times we think we know a concept well, we talk around it a lot but in reality we are not sure about it.

Famous Physicist Richard Feynman suggested a method to test if you really know something or you have an idea about it. It is called Feynman Technique. According to this technique, if you can teach a specific concept to a toddler, and then make a self reflection for the identifying the gaps in your teaching and review it to eliminate those gaps and finally achieve to teach it really simply, then you know that concept well.

How does active learning happen in class?

I, myself attended many workshops about active learning in class and gave some workshops to small groups at the school I’m working now. As I observed, many educators, especially above some certain age group, have difficulties to understand it. People have difficulties to reach to the “Eureka” moment. Or sometimes, it is the comfortable zone to the same thing you have been doing for the past 17 years.

For my belief, active learning is keeping students engaged and ensuring them dynamically participating in learning. Moreover students start discovering to learn by a self-motivation. The teacher will be successful to the extent he/she can achieve to maintain this.

So, educational terms and trends are everywhere these days. Hundreds of blog posts, books, expert views can be found easily. Even may be we are talking about them most of the time. Applying what we know is different. Likewise for the case of active learning one can ask many questions.

  • Are we really maintaining student engagement in our classes?
  • If yes, how often and to what extent?





Hard Work and the Story of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Embed from Getty Images

In this life, nothing comes easy. The path that goes to success usually requires perseverance, ambition and hard work. May be practice doesn’t always make it perfect as Maria Konnikova discusses. [1] Still, there is something called “10000 Hours Rule” which Ericsson research showed if someone trains hard for mastering at an area, say playing piano, for some 10000 hours than that person achieves to be expert on it. Famous author Malcolm Gladwell writes long about this phenomenon in his book, Outliers. Ericsson says Gladwell misunderstood him and oversimplified the results.[2] On the other hand it is obvious that working hard brings success if there is a foundational talent for the beginning.

This week, I read a wonderful story about how Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote his famous novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”.[3] I remember reading it years ago on a flight from Beijing to New York with mixed feelings of fear of flight and tiredness of long hours of sitting. Therefore whatever I remember about the book, I also remember the flight, flying over the North Pole and Canada to New York.

Here is an excerpt from Paul Elie’s beautiful article, which tells the history of the book:

“I did not get up for eighteen months,” he would recall. Like the book’s protagonist, Colonel Aureliano Buendía—who hides out in his workshop in Macondo, fashioning tiny gold fish with jewelled eyes—the author worked obsessively. He marked the typed pages, then sent them to a typist who made a fresh copy. He called friends to read pages aloud. Mercedes maintained the family. She stocked the cupboard with scotch for when work was done. She kept bill collectors at bay. She hocked household items for cash: “telephone, fridge, radio, jewellery,” as García Márquez’s biographer Gerald Martin has it. He sold the Opel. When the novel was finished, and Gabo and Mercedes went to the post office to send the typescript to the publisher, Editorial Sudamericana, in Buenos Aires, they didn’t have the 82 pesos for the postage. They sent the first half, and then the rest after a visit to the pawnshop.

He had smoked 30,000 cigarettes and run through 120,000 pesos (about $10,000). Mercedes asked, “And what if, after all this, it’s a bad novel?”