A. Everyone who has gone to school knows that some classes are better, more interesting, livelier
than others. We have all sat through classes where we learned little, accept the facts and to be quiet. We also have been
part of classes where we actively learned by being challenged by teachers and the subject to learn for ourselves.
Although classes often seem outwardly alike in having a teacher, in having some students and in producing some results, the
differences between passive and active classes are enormous.
A. The passive kind of class usually
has a teacher who lectures, puts outlines and terms on the chalkboard, and dispenses information to the students.
my sophomore biology teacher Mrs. Noguida, who rarely looked up from the orange notebook in which she had carefully typed
all her lectures, a teacher in a passive classroom simply dictates information and answers.
1. They tell the students
how to think and what to think.
2. They pour facts into the students like water into a sieve.
3. The students are
forced, usually by the teacher's authority, to sit, listen, take notes, and regurgitate only what the teacher has said.
The only kinds of questions are about form: "What is the work in subpoint 3, a, (1)?" Or "How do you spell
5. The results in such a class are measured by multiple-choice or true-false questions, or questions
that require memorized answers: "What is Newton's First Law?" "What are the three causes or the American Civil
6. The results in such classes are also measured by the quickness with which students forget the facts they
had poured into them.
B. The other kind of class, the active kind, usually has a teacher who stimulates students
to learn for themselves by asking questions, by posing problems, and most of all by being a student, too.
a teacher might plan the outline of a course, but doesn't force the class in only one direction.
--Instead, like Ms.
Cerrillo, my junior history teacher, a teacher in an active class uses the discussion to lead to learning. Instead of lecturing
on the causes of the Civil War, Ms. Cerrillo gave us a list of books and articles and said, "Find out what caused the
Civil War." We had to search for ourselves, find some answers, then discuss what we found in class. From the discussions,
we all learned more than just the facts; we learned the facts but we also learned how complex the causes were.
in active classes like that become more involved in their learning; they ask questions about why and how.
3. The results
in the active class are usually measured by essay answers, individual projects, and a change in attitude on the students'
4. Learning becomes fun; although students may forget the facts just as quickly, their attitudes toward learning
and their excitement in developing answers for themselves don't end with the last class.
We all remember having to learn that "4 X 9 = 36" and having to memorize dates like 1914-1918, 1776, and 1492. And
those kinds of classes are important for laying some groundwork, but not much true learning takes place there. There is a
difference between knowing a fact and understanding it.
B. Despite their outward similarities, the passive kind
of class is clearly inferior to the active one for helping students understand the world around them.