“Engagement” has become a bit of an academic buzzword but is still, at its core, a very powerful and effective learning strategy.
With the traditional styles of passive learning becoming more and more obsolete, today’s education no longer seems as cohesive and successful without having a give-and-take component to it.
So, what does interactive learning entail? And is it really all that it’s hyped up to be?
In this article, we’ll be looking into the different styles of team-based learning, how they measure up to more conventional methods, as well as what their impact is on motivation, knowledge retention, and performance.
But before we dive in, let’s get a better understanding of what an interactive strategy is, and why it’s so important in the learning process.
What is interactive, team-based learning?
The digital era has ushered in an overwhelming influx of free information and has created the perfect medium for autodidacts to prosper in. With the rise of DIY education, there’s been an increased interest in ditching lectures altogether in favor of so-called ways of “hacking your education”.
But I believe that being an autodidact, while important, is not enough to ensure a high standard of education. And it can easily slip into dilettantism or become a tool for blindly and completely disconnecting yourself from the judgments of peers.
In my experience, mutual accountability drives creativity, and having open conversations about the validity of our ideas is an integral part of learning anything.
This is where interactive education comes into play.
Put simply, interactive education is an open-ended learning strategy that involves two things:
- Interaction: learners are consistently engaged and actively participate with peers in lessons.
- Group work: a small group of students works together to achieve a shared learning objective.
The key difference between this type of approach and traditional learning is that interactive education starts off from a simple premise: learning is relational.
Why learning requires relationships
Teaching is complex and needs to take into account the dynamics of the social environment in which instructors and learners meet and engage.
Interactive education understands this fact and aims to humanize the learning process. As such, the relational aspects of education are brought to the forefront while language and dialogue become central to knowledge retention.
So what does this mean in practice?
It means that interactive learning focuses not only on the content but also on the medium in which this content is delivered. It places emphasis on each student’s learning style, their level of experience and ability, but also considers their interests, background, and personality.
Research backs up this approach, as social capital has been shown to have a three to five times larger effect than financial capital in facilitating learning and improving education outcomes.
But what are the main benefits of interactive learning?
To understand the advantages of this strategy, it’s important to note some of the many shortcomings that inevitably emerge when using conventional education methods.
The drawbacks of traditional education
The static nature of traditional education, but also the superficial approach of newer programs like DIY education all lack an essential component that’s been proven to enhance the learning experience: relationships.
Overlooking this factor results in a few major shortcomings:
- Ineffective learning techniques;
- Poor educational experience;
- Drawn-out lectures that become boring;
- Mechanical understanding of the topic at hand as opposed to an in-depth understanding;
- Superficial learning (information is easily forgotten and not successfully integrated for practical use);
- Learning material is often irrelevant, impractical or hard to understand.
So how does an interactive approach counter these issues?
7 ways in which interactive strategies improve the learning experience
An interactive approach has been shown to improve classroom preparation and comfort during lectures, as well as increased knowledge retention.
How does this work?
Here are 7 major ways that an interactive strategy can impact the learning process:
1. It’s solution-oriented
Learning comes naturally when you know the information presented will be useful to you in your day-to-day life.
As opposed to conventional classes that often contain a surplus of irrelevant information, interactive curriculums filter through the materials they share and only select those that have a well-defined practical use and provide students with reliable and pragmatic solutions to their challenges.
“The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.”
– Herbert Spencer
2. It offers more flexibility (both for the teacher and the learners)
Interactive learning is easily adaptable:
- For students: it makes room for different learning styles and allows them to interact with the material in a way that is most effective for them.
- For teachers: the training methods allow them to make quick adjustments to their processes, as well as to change their approach based on feedback.
3. It boosts intrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation – engaging in an activity for the entertainment or enjoyment of the task itself rather than for a reward – is the driving force behind meaningful learning.
Interactive strategies like gamification, role-playing, and the use of storytelling have all been shown to boost intrinsic motivation and lead to better education outcomes.
4. It produces better learning outcomes
While traditional education tends to dull the learner’s analytic reasoning, interactive learning sharpens critical thinking skills and teaches students how to use logic, as well as creativity to make decisions and solve problems.
This leads to more individual accountability and higher academic performance.
5. Minimizes the pressure placed on the teacher
Every student obediently listening, fully immersed in the lesson, and paying undivided attention throughout its entirety.
It sounds like a teacher’s dream brought to life. But it’s also highly unrealistic.
Traditional methods are known to put immense pressure on the teacher to perform and be able to keep their students’ attention indiscriminately throughout the entire lesson.
On the other hand, interactive strategies usually mean the teacher is no longer in the spotlight. They can keep calm and collected and their relaxed mood is bound to transpire in the classroom and makes it easier for students to absorb new information and remain engaged.
6. It promotes collaboration
What’s unique about interactive learning is that it also promotes collaboration and significantly improves soft skills that have real-world use.
As workplaces become more and more team-based in structure, learning how to successfully operate and collaborate within a group is one of the most useful perks that interactive strategies bring to the table.
7. It’s fun!
Lastly, probably one of the most powerful benefits of interactive education is that students genuinely love it. Long gone are the days when learning meant endlessly taking notes, drifting into daydreams during your instructor’s long-winded speeches or being bored for hours on end.
With interactive strategies, you can share ideas, use the latest tech gadgets, and have conversations that expand your mind and open you up to new perspectives.
You’re able to cooperate with your teacher and peers and engage in a wide array of activities that help you master your field while also having fun. That’s pretty hard to turn down.
Why this matters
Learning doesn’t have to be boring.
It should be exciting, rewarding, and fun.
If we’re satisfied with providing boring learning experiences to our students, then we’re setting the bar pretty low for our next generation of learners.
This is why we’ve created Practical Academics, an interactive education company that promotes lifelong learning and aims to engage and empower mentors, teachers, coaches, and entrepreneurs.
If this sounds interesting to you, feel free to check out our group-based approach here and find out more about what we do.