Passive Learning vs Active Learning: Finding the More Effective Method

passive learning vs active learning

Passive learning vs active learning: these are two learning styles used by students and professionals seeking to upskill in different tech roles. While active learning allows students to put their insights into the learning process, it is hard to be on par with the advantages of the passive learning method, particularly with the presence of an instructor when learning complex computing concepts.

As more and more individuals are looking to learn different sets of skills in various training environments, it might seem challenging to choose the correct learning style. In the subsequent sections, we will look into this topic by considering the benefits and drawbacks of both methods and why passive learning is the most effective method of learning many skills.

What is active learning in tech?

 passive learning vs active learning

This learning method revolves around constant heavy student participation during a tech lesson, exchanging active feedback with the instructors and relying solely on the practice of the given information. While traditional textbook lessons or lectures could be an element of the learning environment, they are pushed far down in importance, allowing inquiry-based learning to be the prominent guiding factor.

Active learning discourages memorisation and focuses instead on developing lateral and critical thinking skills in students, using practical experience to link the provided knowledge to real scenarios. Such hands-on experience generally involves experiments and workshops, with peer instructions and discussions promoting an interactive problem-solving environment.

The instructor may also use projects, games and similar activities to put the programming lessons to practical work and allow students to realise their unique solutions and methods for various problems instead of one fixed method.

Benefits of active learning

While it is difficult to beat the advantages of a traditional learning environment for teaching tech skills, active learning still has a few benefits for learners. Some of these advantages consist of the following:

  1. Better collaboration skills: In any business workplace, teamwork is essential to a successful organisation. By putting students into group activities and encouraging peer discussions to solve various kinds of problems, experiential learning improves students’ social and collaboration skills. Unlike in a trainer-led environment, interactive learning allows you to utilise the power of teamwork for effective results in the tech field.
  2. High engagement rate: Instead of a scenario where information is being monotonously provided, the students are involved in what is being theorised in an active learning environment. This allows them to interact with the information instead of being mere observers and increases their understanding of the topics. This, in turn, makes them feel more connected to the subject material and instils a more profound interest in the process.
  3. Increased self-confidence: Students are expected to actively contribute to this environment, which means constantly exchanging and sharing different views and opinions. It allows them to adjust to a setup where they need to be involved in every way, diminishing their self-doubt and encouraging them to be more vocal about their thoughts on a tech subject. This behaviour is helpful in the workplace to implant practical problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Drawbacks of active learning

A range of courses designed around active learning fail to give the exposure and clarification that passive learning theory offers. This is because the instructor’s word and experience don’t matter since self-experience comes first. Some other drawbacks include the following:

  1. Omitting necessary memorisation: Several skills require memorising formulas and methods to work, and students can rarely achieve that in an active learning environment. When it comes to mathematics or physics formulas, for instance, students can only successfully understand and apply the topic in their organisational skills if they can remember the accurate systems. Having interactive discussions will not help this case and will make passing and understanding the subject material next to impossible for the learners.
  2. Lack of trust in the instructor: Another weak point of this method is how students naturally believe that the instructor’s word doesn’t matter. Learners will want to debate and deliberate amongst one another without much consideration of the fact the instructor has significant experience in the subject and can provide valuable guidance. This lack of belief in the trainer’s expertise would repeatedly result in the same computing errors, which means there will be no real value for the instructor in the session.
  3. Wasting Time: Instructors usually have a lengthy curriculum to cover various teaching topics. As a result, the active learning method consumes much of the critical time wasted in discussion among inexperienced students when an able instructor can give them the required knowledge in much less time. As more and more courses have hours designated to a time limit, this method could be lengthy, laborious, and eventually ineffective in covering most of the course material, as students will dedicate valuable time to learning complex topics.

What is passive learning in tech?

 passive learning vs active learning

Passive learning is based on an instructor or trainer supplying necessary information and the student acting as an empty vessel to be filled up with computer knowledge without needing further deliberation. This method uses traditional practices of textbooks, lectures and presentations to present information from the teacher. The learner has one-way communication with the tech material and is expected to integrate the given details and have a reflexive approach to absorbing the information.

Knowledge learned through passive learning is usually tested in question papers and quizzes, and the learner is duly responsible for how well they focus on the material taught. It enables students to excel in memorising formulas and complex methods of various tasks, as well as codes. Moreover, it promotes higher concentration levels among the learners, as they are required to repeat the knowledge when questioned.

Benefits of passive learning

In courses focusing on physics and mathematics, accurate coding formulas can be taught and learned efficiently using the passive learning method. An experienced instructor has complete control over the classroom. Some other advantages are:

  1. Instructor flexibility: When the training environment is entirely in the hands of the instructor, it is natural for the students to trust their experienced trainer’s words. Thus, the teacher can clarify various tech topics without disruptions and match the student’s level of understanding. It means greater flexibility from the teacher’s end, enabling them to deliver intensive course materials in sections as they see fit.
  2. Systematic planning of material: Since the teacher knows how one session will go after another and what will be required, they can prepare essential items such as lecture notes and presentation media in advance. The learners would also know what to expect in the day’s lesson. Since the instructor will carry everything out in an orderly, systematic fashion, they can also use the created content for future training purposes.
  3. Freedom to revise information: As the knowledge of the training material is transferred to the class, the learners can choose their own pace to absorb, revise and review what they have learned. They can make notes or record a lesson for future reference, and there isn’t any pressure to understand every bit of the lesson right then and there.
  4. Constant exposure to new material: Keeping lengthy, inefficient conversations out of the way allows the students to regularly engage in fresh subject material in an orderly structure. They know they will be studying a new topic according to schedule, without worrying about one thing dragging on against their will.
  5. Conveying more information in less time: Increasingly, classes are being held online with many students. Colleges and universities aside, companies can also conduct training sessions with many staff members within the workplace. Passive learning makes it easy to transfer necessary information to several learners simultaneously, enabling the material to be transferred effectively in larger groups.

Drawbacks of passive learning

Most of the time, this method successfully implants complex subject material into the learners’ minds. However, it may be extensive and require blind trust in the teacher, which some students might not be completely comfortable with. Some cons of passive learning are:

  1. Complete dependence on the teacher: The students are supposed to refrain from giving any feedback or interfering with the lesson in any way to utilise one-way communication. However, this dependence means any error the trainer makes will also be considered part of the lesson. The session will not cover the topics effectively if the trainer is proficient but needs more fluency in a specific language or has poor presentation skills.
  2. Possible misunderstanding of material: Students unable to interact with the course content might need to understand the subject material, and it might be difficult to clear this if they memorise it as part of the lesson and begin to misapply it in the workplace or later career paths.
  3. Discourages debates: This style of thinking keeps the image of students as individuals waiting to be enlightened and that it is not their place to raise questions. Thus, deliberation, debates and questions are discouraged in this environment and might hinder the learners’ thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Finding the more suitable learning method

While active learning might be a more exciting option for some fields, passive learning is traditionally designed to use the most effective methods to allow tech learners to comprehend and absorb knowledge. Active learning focuses more on an individual’s thinking and speaking skills, while passive learning promotes higher concentration in the computer-based workplace and improves code-writing skills.

Advocates of active listening often need to mention how the method can be time-consuming and inefficient. On the other hand, passive learning offers a rhythmic sequence to how knowledge and tech training can be passed on to students most efficiently without any delays.

If you are eager to look up the tech courses you can study via both passive learning and active learning, schedule a career consultation with our team today. 


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