3.1 What is active learning?

The pedagogy at the heart of the TESSA materials is active learning. Children and adults learn through being actively engaged. This can involve a physical activity such as role play, experimenting and making models or simply thinking about something in a new way. This thinking might be based on some initial reading or a lecture and is developed through discussion or writing. Importantly, activity is not copying or listening to a lecture from the teacher. Through active learning, learners:

  • connect new information to what they already know
  • fill in missing gaps in their knowledge by identifying information that will help them to interpret and understand new ideas
  • recognise new and contradictory ideas that their existing knowledge cannot explain.

TESSA materials challenge teachers who are using a ‘teacher-centred’ lecture-style approach and encourage them to:

  • listen to learners
  • encourage learners to ask questions
  • develop competency with different learning strategies
  • work collaboratively.

In this style of teaching, the teacher is engaged in cooperative activity with their learners and facilitates their learning. This is what teachers are being asked to do in the Revised Zambian School Curriculum, so teacher educators need to do it as well!

Activity 3.1: Active pedagogy

This activity will help you to find out how the TESSA materials offer more effective ways of teaching that replace the more conventional, teacher-centred approach.

Look again at the TESSA section you were studying in Activity 2.1.

  • How do the activities and case studies show ‘active’ learning?
  • How is this different to the way teachers usually teach this topic?


A teacher-centred approach might be the teacher asking closed questions to the whole class and only confident learners answering. The teacher judges what he considers to be right or wrong answers and would write it on the board.

In the case study, a learner-centred approach sees learners placed in groups and all are asked to share their ideas. The ideas shared with the class come from the group rather than from individuals, which protects the shy, unconfident learners. The class then makes the decision as to what is right or not. In the last phase, the teacher uses the learners’ ideas, which gives them value.

Tool 3: Active learning

3.2 Active teaching and learning methods