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Active Learning Methodologies – Past, Present or Future?


Gabriel Mario Rodrigues – Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES

“What I hear, I forget; what I see, I remember; what I do, I understand. “(Confucius)

In order to elaborate the article of today, I was inspired by the vast material to which I have access daily and that deserve reflection. There are thousands of articles, books, and theses by renowned professors that hang on the shelves of the university basement, because in practice nobody applies them. We see huge investments of time and money in congresses, with many exhibitions, but in the end, the changes seem to be very few.

In recent years, the education of young university students has presented great challenges for educators and educational institutions. What we see, in the most expressive, is to do more of the same, the secular sameness of classrooms.

In this educational setting, the active learning methodologies (which are not so new – there is Confucius who will not let me lie) have arisen to perfect the teaching of any discipline. They work, however, in a very different way from those of traditional learning, since knowledge is no longer transmitted only to be obtained more actively by the student – as the word indicates -, which helps him/her to learn faster, better and with greater efficiency.

Here I put a wedge, that is, that schools do not always have people prepared to assume this modality, because they do not know the “factory floor”, indispensable condition to push the method ahead. Masters and PhDs with their dissertations and theses, which we have too much of, write from their childhood classrooms.

The questions arise faster than the solutions proposed to educate students, with interests and skills very different from past generations. That is, young people have access to and process more information at a faster rate, and are cognitively more adept at dealing with mental challenges. Because of this, it creates a big problem for teachers: how to attract and keep their attention and their interest? And let us not deceive ourselves by assigning to them the already “haunted” dispersion of attention, the attention-deficit syndrome.

There is no mention of the worrysome lack of motivation of students with performance impacts and dropout rates, as traditional teaching and learning (passive) methods today do not meet the many needs of students, such as meaningful and contextualized learning, development of skills and abilities for professional and personal life, the multidisciplinary view of knowledge, entrepreneurship, etc.

In this sense, active learning methodologies present themselves as an alternative with significant potential to meet the demands and challenges of current education, but require a broad understanding of its fundamentals.

Thus, the great difficulty today is the application of these methodologies, especially highlighting Problem-Based Learning (ABProb) and Project-Based Learning (ABProj). Another common practice in active learning methodologies is the reverse classes, in which the student has access to online content to optimize class time in fact, taking advantage of it to ask questions, interact with colleagues and develop projects. Its positive results have been incontestable.

Professor Dácio Guimarães de Moura, from the Positivo University in Curitiba, warns: “While there is recognition of the potential of active methodologies, there is also resistance in educational settings for the implementation of new teaching methods, especially active methods. This resistance seems to be associated, in part, with what we call systemic rigidity (eg, fear of undermining traditional approaches to teaching). This resistance also seems to be related to the deficiencies in the teacher training process, the teacher who has not tried these methodologies during his / her training process will certainly have difficulties in applying them with his / her students. Despite the difficulties, the experiences of applying active methodologies have presented extremely positive results, recommending their application on a large scale “.

A central idea of ​​these methodologies is: No More Passive Students.

What, after all, are active learning methodologies? Professor Guimarães de Moura has the answers. For him, in a summarized and schematic way, active methodologies are those that present the following characteristics: student participation (in all dimensions: sensory-motor, affective-emotional, mental-cognitive), freedom of choice objectives), contextualization of knowledge (accentuating reality and utility to study and activities), group activities (based on team contributions), use of multiple resources (cultural, scientific and technological), socialization of knowledge and results.

And he points out some strategies that can impel the implantation of active methodologies in the school:

1- to organize administrative and academic spaces to encourage and manage the development of active methodologies, such as nuclei and study groups and research on the design and implementation of active methodologies in the school;
2- create conditions for human resources training that enable the implementation of active methodologies in the school;
3- Create institutional spaces to promote and encourage the public presentation and presentation of works carried out by students, teachers and employees, in the context of active methodologies, such as: Museum in School, Science, Technology and Culture Fairs, Scientific Initiation Projects, incubators , open laboratories, magazine for publication of works carried out, incentive to participate in contests, etc.

According to the professor, philosopher and researcher José Moran, in an interview for the Challenges of Education portal, it is urgent that education reorganize. “There is a clear awareness of the exhaustion of the old model, whether in Basic Education or Higher Education. This is a world movement, not just Brazilian,” he says.

Putting these concepts into practice, however, is a challenge. For Moran, author of the book Active Methodologies for an Innovative Education, everything that is different finds resistance. Thus, active methodologies, although they are not such a current proposal in the history of educational systems, have not yet conquered teaching on a desirable scale as a solution to the improvement of teaching and learning processes.

There remains, therefore, the much-needed desire to innovate and experiment with methodologies that can change the history of schools, classrooms, learning and, above all, societies.

Many experiments already carried out on the implementation of active methodologies have shown that the results compensate in an extraordinary way the efforts and risks faced. The present context of education seems to indicate that our traditional teaching systems begin to wither away, demanding new proposals.

It may be that a specific difficulty for active methodologies in universities is the imposition of content considered essential. In fact, a technical/technological course can not afford to guarantee that the students acquire certain knowledge and certain skills, considered basic for the exercise of the profession. There is the option of reconciling the advantages and needs that are inherent in the various methodological proposals.

Gen Business & Management, an initiative of Editora Atlas, brings an interesting article that I recommend reading: What is PBL? Understand the problem-based learning method. This is the first initiative in the Active Methodologies approach with the presentation of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) – predecessor of the current Assets, almost fifty years ago – or, in Portuguese, Problem Based Learning (PBL) .