International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss


The Risk of Active Learning in the Classroom: Negative Synergy and its implications for Learning
Shannon Jackson, Mayes Mathews

Teaching courses through Distance Learning (DL) is an integral part of the ever emerging paradigm of online education. The challenges of teaching via this ever changing and innovating platform poses special challenges, especially when one considers the use of active learning techniques and the concept of negative synergy. Because many employers seek prospective new hires that demonstrate the essential skills to write well, the ability to communicate effectively, and the ability to collaborate with others in addition to the research that indicates that active learning enhances, among other things, retention of materials presented in the classroom, active learning techniques have become common place in the traditional as well as online classroom environments. Active learning is an inclusive term that refers to several modalities of instruction and teaching which, specifically, address the special needs of distance learning students.. Bonwell and Eison (1991) popularized the approach and it became the educational model for the 1990s According to Mayer (2004) strategies like active learning developed out of the work of an earlier group of theorists who had promoted promoting discovery learning which had suggested that students who actively engage with the material are more likely to recall information later and be able to use that information in different contexts (Bruner, 1961). However, this claim is not always supported by the literature (Mayer, 2004; Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, 2006). The author’s experiences suggest that, at times, the inability of active learning techniques to work well in the DL environment depend on how active learning is implemented. Examples of active learning activities include: class discussion, small group discussion, debate, posing questions to the class, think-pair-share activities, short written exercises and polling the class (Bonwell and Eison, 1991)..

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