Unit 2: Varied and active engagement

Welcome to unit 2 which explores varied and active engagement. For learners to gain a deep understanding of new knowledge, skills, or values, they must actively engage with it.

Watch this video where James Lang explains this learning principle further.

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The second principle is just about varied and active engagement. You might have read at some point or heard people talking about the idea of learning styles, that we all have different styles of learning. For example, some people are visual learners. Some people like to learn by reading or listening. Some people are hands-on learners.
That theory has become very popular in education. Unfortunately, the research support behind it is not very strong. What the research tells us instead is that in a generic way, we all do learn differently because we're all different human beings. And we have those kinds of individual differences that are true in any realm of human experience.
But in terms of learning styles, what we've learned is that people's learning styles might differ. But that doesn't mean that we have to tailor teaching to an individual's preferred learning style. And in fact, some research shows that teaching in a way that the learner prefers isn't always good. And sometimes it's better for the learner to struggle, actually, in a format or a style that's different from the one they prefer.
The research has also shown, in fact, that we're not always good at identifying what our best learning style is. So someone who thinks they're a visual learner and then is given material in the both visual and, say, audio form, turns out might actually learn better in the audio format. So I say all this just to note that everybody learns differently. That's certainly true. There are these different styles that people can use to learn.
But you don't need to tailor your teaching to those learning styles. And in fact, you should think about the opposite perspective, that you should be doing as many different things as possible. Because we all learn differently, some kinds of activities are going to be helpful to students who learn one way but will not be helpful to students who learn in a different way.
So I always just recommend to people, think about varying your strategies. Don't lecture all the time. But don't always have discussions. Don't always use group work. Mix it up a little bit. And as you mix it up, you're going to be appealing to learners who have different approaches and styles, and some of whom will gain when it's difficult for them, and some of whom will be able to feel more comfortable when you're doing things that are easier for them.
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2.1 Active engagement