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CME Credits

Active vs Passive Learning

Passive learning has long been the accepted status quo in higher education and other learning environments. However, the benefits of active learning have educational institutions reconsidering how to teach tomorrow’s professionals.

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What is Active Learning?

Active learning is part of student-centered learning, or learning that allows students to have a say in what they learn as well as how. Student-centered learning, as a whole, makes learning more accessible and effective. Active learning uses a variety of techniques to ensure students are engaging with content, including:

  • Activities and projects
  • Discussion and debate
  • Reflection and self-assessment
  • 3D models and virtual reality
  • Flipped classrooms

These benefits have proven benefits for students, including increased critical thinking and problem solving, encouraging students to retain information and apply it to real world scenarios. Active learning also allows for more timely feedback on progress, which helps students and teachers quickly realize if a student has not adequately mastered a topic.

What is Passive Learning?

While active learning focuses on students’ interests, experiences and needs, passive learning is teacher-centered. Most learners are familiar with passive learning techniques, including readings, lectures and rote memorization. There are benefits to this approach, primarily for the teacher. It’s easier to create and execute course curricula as a whole as well as individual lesson plans. However, students also build skills through passive learning, including active listening and attention to detail.

Learning That Works for You

It’s possible to adapt tasks to fit your own preferred learning style. Johns Hopkins University’s Office of Academic Support highlights how different study materials lend themselves to both passive and active learning methods. For example, a student who prefers passive learning could review lecture presentations as-is, while those who benefit from active learning could summarize each slide in their own words and discuss the ideas with classmates.

While most research surrounding active vs passive learning centers on classroom experiences, some is specific to medical training and even continuing medical education. As a practicing healthcare professional, you’re constantly adapting to new technologies, tools and techniques to better serve patients. Consider how incorporating active learning could help you get the most out of your CME and other continuing education.