Have you ever done everything within your power to avoid being called on by your teacher in class? Perhaps you’ve simply tried to avoid eye contact, or maybe you’ve resorted to acting very absorbed in note-taking or whatever other activity the class may have been doing. Other times, maybe you have just been so lost or unengaged in your learning that you could not formulate a question even though you have had thousands. I, more often than not, have made great use of these techniques, as well as have simply felt off course in some classes. For the most part, I have been able to sneak by, unnoticed and inconspicuously. However, the more I’ve practiced these approaches, I’ve begun to notice how unattached I am to my learning, and I can see the detrimental impacts of remaining a passive learner. Though you may be unaware of the blatant differences between who you are and can be in your education, it is important to understand how to become a proactive student, which can significantly enhance your studies inside the classroom and out.
The definitions of active and passive learning can be outlined as so: Passive learning occurs when “students are assumed to enter the course with minds like empty vessels or sponges to be filled with knowledge,” whereas active learning refers to “a learning environment in which the student can learn to restructure the new information and their prior knowledge into new knowledge about the content and to practice using it.” Plainly seen, passive learning can be effective, but not for everyone. If your brain isn’t a sponge and you are not able to easily retain information simply by hearing it, it is a sign that you are an active learner. Even if you haven’t been one to date, you will likely be more successful if you change your ways.
While sometimes it is up to the teacher to determine the classroom environment, whether it be active or passive, much of it can be up to the student. I used to be content with the philosophy that not everyone needs to take part in the classroom in order to be successful in it. I suppose that I would still support this statement to some degree; there absolutely exist students who are able to, for example, sleep during every class and still wind up with A-pluses. However, these types of students do not embody the vast majority of learners.
There is something to be said for students who take initiative towards their own learning. These students are generally the ones who make significant contributions to society, and make very positive impacts on others. Therefore, whatever initiative you demonstrate in high school will eventually lead to greater things down the path. One excellent way to show initiative in high school is by participating avidly in class, which is often only done when you have ample understanding of a concept. To combat forces which may render you silent in class, there is an answer: prepare before you learn.
I adopted this suggestion from my dad when I was struggling in precalculus. I would generally have no idea what was going on day-to-day in class, which sourced a terrible chain reaction in which I remained practically mute, constantly overwhelmed with confusion from the previous day’s lesson, and the one before that, and the one before that.
Swamped with this immense perplexity, I was unsuccessful, and refrained from asking questions, since I simply had no idea where to begin with my inquiries. However, this all changed when I was faced with two options: to accept the grades, or change my approach. Unsatisfied with my grades, I chose the latter, and by doing this, it meant I would have to take some advice from my dad. He recommended that before going to class each day, I should review the material on my own, or with his help, in order to familiarize myself with the concepts.
This self-teaching method can be conducted in a variety of ways, the easiest being going ahead in a textbook or asking a teacher for learning materials prior to them being taught. Pre-calc was a specific class that I had to work hard at in order to be successful, so while spending this extra time is definitely not necessary for everyone in every class, it can be tremendously helpful. Through this system, I was able to go into math each day with a semi-solid foundation, which I was able to build upon through reinforcement in class and my ability to participate as I never had before.
Sitting idly by in class when you are struggling is an outlet that is commonly used, but never beneficial to a student. As opposed to confusion as it once was, this newfound proactivity will enable you to be engaged in your classes, and react with success as opposed to stress.