Motivating active learning

Tuesday July 10, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/7/10/focus/11631212&sec=focus

To increase and motivate the workforce to continue learning, the educational contents must be delivered in the most engaging way so that the learners can retain the knowledge for use later.

HAVING an educated and well-trained workforce is crucial for our nation to achieve the goals stipulated in the transformation agenda and more importantly, Vision 2020.

Even though our workforce may have the skills and experience, continuous education and training are essential to enhance their competency in the challenging and competitive global environment.

Fundamentally, the objective of education and training programmes for the workforce is to stimulate and help them to learn and eventually to transfer the educational contents, be it in the form of a skill or information, from the classroom to their real working environment.

In order to increase and motivate the workforce to continue learning, knowledge must be delivered in the most engaging way so that the learners can appreciate the importance of it.

This will enable them to apply the knowledge in daily life and spur their interest in lifelong learning.

This is vital for the nation to progress and excel in the competitive global economy.

Over the years, professional trainers face the challenge on how to engage learners to learn and subsequently practise the theories they learn in the classroom in their work place.

In her book Training from the Back of the Room, professional trainer Sharon Bowman wrote: “How long can you sit and listen to a fact-based lecture, devoid of stories, emotion, or anything that connects you personally to the content?

“Your tolerance for such a learning experience is probably minimal, and the actual time you remain sitting without getting fidgety is probably a matter of minutes, not hours.”

In response to the challenge, training and education methods have evolved from the traditional lecture-based method, which is considered to be passive, to a more active method that will engage active participation from learners.

These methods are implemented in the form of case studies, role-playing, problem-solving, discussion, and etc.

In view of the above, let us reflect on a significant event during the time of the Prophet Muhammad which was narrated in a hadith.

This hadith was taken on the authority of Umar al-Khattab, the second Caliph of Islam, where he said: “While we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah, one day a man came up to us whose clothes were extremely white, whose hair was extremely black, upon whom traces of travelling could not be seen, and whom none of us knew, until he sat down close to the Prophet, so that he rested his knees upon his knees and placed his two hands upon his thighs and said, ‘Muhammad, tell me about Islam’.

“The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Islam is that you witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and you establish the prayer, and you give the zakat, and you fast Ramadan, and you perform the haj of the House if you are able to make a way to it.’

“The man said: ‘You have told the truth’, and we were amazed at him asking him and (then) telling him that he told the truth.

“Then the man asked again: ‘Tell me about iman.’

“The Prophet answered: ‘That you affirm Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you affirm the Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.’

“The man replied: ‘You (the Prophet) have told the truth.’

“The man asked another question: ‘Tell me about ihsan.’

“The Prophet replied: ‘That you worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you don’t see Him then truly He sees you.’

“The man asked further: ‘Tell me about the Hour.’

“The Prophet replied: ‘The one asked about it knows no more than the one asking.’

“The man then asked: ‘Then tell me about its tokens.’

“The Prophet replied: ‘That the female slave should give birth to her mistress, and you see poor, naked, barefoot shepherds of sheep and goats competing in making tall buildings.’

“The man went away, and I remained some time. Then the Prophet asked: ‘Umar, do you know who the questioner was?’

“I said: ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’

“The Prophet said: ‘He was Gabriel who came to you to teach you your religion.’” (This hadith was narrated by Muslim).

The Prophet could have delivered these important messages through a typical lecture or a sermon.

However, with guidance of Allah the Almighty, the Prophet had delivered the important messages through a creative and engaging method.

In this hadith, there was apparently an element of role-playing.

The Prophet had used role-playing to educate his companion. In this, the archangel Gabriel was sent by Allah in the role of a human being.

He acted as a man or student who did not know about Islam, imanihsan, and the day of the judgment and asked the Prophet for the answers.

Every time the Prophet answered, Gabriel agreed with the answers to the amazement of the companions.

In modern education, a typical role-playing activity would have learners taking on a role of a character, learning and acting as what is happening in the real situation.

Studies on education psychology find that role-playing as a teaching strategy provides advantages for both teacher and student.

One such advantage is that the learners’ interest in the subject and understanding of the course content will be increased.

This is one of the methods of active learning.

It involves participants in the learning.

According to modern educational experts, by learning actively, learners tend to remember more of what they learn, compared with passive learning.