Interactive Learning Leads to Better Results, Surprising Students

If the research shows that Interactive Learning is a far better approach than Passive Learning, why is it not used more often? The answer might lie in the way students are swayed by skillful lecturers into thinking they are learning more than they actually are.

As you may know, here at 2Time Labs we have been advocating the introduction of interactive learning wherever possible. It’s not by accident.  The research is clear that involving students in material ways works. Taking this message to heart, about a year ago I brought it to the planners of a future virtual summit. After some discussion, the ideas were included in the design and implementation of the actual event which was recently concluded.

For example, during the online conference summiteers were required to join a community platform (Mighty Networks) which was used as the technological base. They were invited to make full use of its features, which many did to interact with each other, presenters and exhibitors. They were all invited to remain as permanent members.

They were also given the opportunity to engage with nine digital interactive learning tools  – quizzes, games, assessments etc. Each supported the objective of the summit, focusing on a single key area of learning.

Finally, at the end each day summiteers were invited to join a live networking lounge in the form of a video group chat on Zoom.

Consequently, this is the first virtual summit I know of that attempted to go the extra interactive  mile. Every other one I have either presented at or attended has been almost 100% passive. (A few allowed a few questions at the end.)

Knowing the power of a community and digital interactives from personal experience, I wondered why this could not be different. The technology to provide an interactive experience has been available for some time at a low price.

Then I read this article and it struck a chord:  The Dangers of Fluent Lectures..

According to the author, “A study says smooth-talking professors can lull students into thinking they’ve learned more than they actually have — potentially at the expense of active learning.”

Call it a version of the Dunning-Kruger Effect if you will. In this case, the student over-estimates how much learning is happening because the teacher using passive learning is skilfully taking them from start to finish, requiring little or nothing of them in return.

By contrast, their counterparts in the interactive learning classroom actually learn more, but think they are learning less, according to the research. The reason? Apparently, they are confronted with their (true) shortcomings early on in the process. This makes them feel inadequate.

Also, they are forced to undergo a real, public struggle in real time which requires a show of effort and failure. Finally, they are lulled into thinking that the delivery of active learning isn’t as “polished” as that of passive learning due to its inherently discontinuous nature.

As a result, teachers using active learning receive lower student evaluations. According to the article, it “inadvertently promotes inferior (passive) pedagogical methods.”

Maybe this explains why the ratio of passive to interactive time spent at virtual summits is almost 100% to 0%, even though there is abundant technology to create more of a balance. The problem lies in the attendee-learner’s perception.

I have a suspicion that this may continue to be the case for some time. However, in a  cynical corner of my mind I predict the change will finally come only if hosts start to notice that predominantly interactive summits produce more sales than  their counterparts. In other words, when money starts to talk.

At that point, perhaps, the drumbeat for interactive summits would begin for all to hear.

By the end, the study shared a little unintended light. According to one of the it’s researchers in a message to teachers everywhere: “If you use (inter) active properly, your students will learn more and they will enjoy and appreciate it, especially once they see evidence of their learning.”

This hints at the power of a gamified approach in which learning/summit attending is deliberately engineered to produce an intrinsically motivated, fun experience. While providing such learning isn’t easy, my experience at the recently concluded summit is that it adds a dimension which participants relish. In fact, some said they were sad to the see the event draw to a close.

As I move into the planning stages of 2Time Labs’ own Time Blocking Virtual Summit slated for March 2020, I am inspired (but informed) by these research results. Real learning (vs. entertainment) is a slippery objective to attain in even traditional settings. We just don’t know much about how it should be conducted in these new, online, multi-attendee environments such as classrooms and virtual summits.