Curiosity is an inherent human nature. We want to learn about the world around us. And we have been doing so since the day we were born. When we are curious, we actively engage with the world around us and in that process learn about it. Unfortunately, our education system undermines this basic instinct of human beings. It treats students as passive learners or empty vessels. And the job of the instructors is to “fill students’ minds” with knowledge. Classrooms are treated as places to transfer information where the instructors act as the “sea of knowledge” who aim to transfer their knowledge to the students.
However, this system of knowledge transfer does not lead to students’ learning. Yes, the students do get some information in this process but they do not necessarily understand it. And they forget it after some time. Students are not empty vessels which can be filled with knowledge. They have a mind of their own. They think and construct knowledge out of what they hear, see and experience. And they learn in this process of knowledge construction.
If we want students to construct their own understanding, the only way to do that is to engage them in the process of learning instead of delivering content to them. And the way we can engage students in the learning process is by involving them in activities which lead to their learning. When students are engaged, they can learn the most difficult and intricate topics. This is because while they are engaged, they try to connect the new information to their long-term memory. This, in turn, leads to their understanding of the topic they are trying to learn. As the author James Paul Gee notes in his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, kids tend to learn even the most complicated of video games because they are deeply engaged in the process of learning it. There are multiple instructional strategies which can be used to involve students in the learning process. These include, but are not limited to, project-based learning, problem-based learning, case-based teaching, discovery learning, collaborative learning, co-operative learning and peer-teaching.
An old proverb suggests, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” If we want students to understand the content, we need to engage them in doing activities instead of making them hear lectures from the instructors.