In OPEDUCA, 'active learning' is to be understood as youngsters' ‘awakening’ for development in an involved way, students’ active participation in the learning process results in an increase in the intellectual potential to make acquired information more readily practical in problem-solving, the enaction of the learning activities in terms of the intrinsic reward of discovery itself, learning the heuristics of discovery and making the material more readily accessible in memory (Bruner, 1961). The learning takes place within ourselves, is not placed nor stored outside of us – one cannot be handed or look up knowledge. The multitude of first-hand experiences the OPEDUCA instruments comprise always leave an impression but are regarded meaningful if they are effective openers, call for attention and awaken the student to be(come) active.
Although the importance of an active state of mind was shared broadly, observations and interpretations differed in daily practice. Students showed a variety of attitudes and tempers, some growing silent and for the time being, pulled back into themselves while others made their active state noticeable. Social interaction by ways of the Study-Teams engaged over 80%, which however not meant they were activated. Interaction could lead to an active mode over engagement, engagement however also possibly the result of an already present active mode.
Whereas the intake, storing and processing of data and the generation of information might remain subject to different convictions and remains obscure, I argue the ‘outcome’ by ways of reflections, reasoning and notable action allows for more objective observation. Here is a reason the OPEDUCA instruments see to a continuous flow of expression in a variety of ways, accumulating in a constant flow of articulation through presentation.
We noticed misinterpretations between ‘active, action and activity'. When referring to an active state we consider the mind awake, open, involved. Psychical action in all sorts of activities can provide distraction the (subconscious) mind needs while impressions trickle into our working memory continuously, but it is not merely outward observable action that enhances the learning. We observed it to contribute, however for only brief time intervals, until action became a (senseless) distraction. It essential to be aware of the limited near linear ability of our working memory to ‘trickle and instill’ data and their (changing) interrelations in our longer-term memory to allow the latter to (unconsciously) perform the knowledge-generation process it is equipped for. In cases students told us they eventually felt comfortable with rest, finding peace of mind. Distraction, either by play, continuing instructions, games or hectic classrooms, seemed contra-productive as (e)motion stood in the way of contemplation, senses over-challenged.
We noted teachers, especially in secondary, only seldom installed moments of silence (to think, read). Time indicated for ‘individual learning’ practically meant students were sitting behind screens, mostly connected to the internet. Teachers frequently interpreted students’ searching, clicking, scrolling as ‘being active’, not questioning an overload of the senses. Although the internet can be critically qualified as a two-dimensional frozen state also containing outdated and subjective information, especially its ever-changing continuous flow of short texts and rapid visualizations create an illusion of action to our senses and the observer (moreover, we regard this learning to take place within ourselves and not placed nor stored outside of us – one cannot look up knowledge).
As we found in practice, working with over 400 teachers often in the daily reality of their school, most very well understood (if not 'felt') what Active and Awaken means, they faced a pedagogical challenge to turn that into practice. In a complex of reasons for that, most relevant was their limited or lost 'associative capacity', close to narrative qualities. It proved difficult to come forth with (questioning) real-life phenomena that have the quality to unleash a certain 'wonder' with their students, simply because of their limited repertoire.
Their dependency on textbooks is only a partial explanation, for as most admitted when being handed examples that worked, they just appeared not interested and active enough themselves (anymore) to generate an active state of mind. Some were astonished when we for example sent students out to discover and take a picture of the largest water pump in their neighborhood (the prelude for an active search and activated reasoning about trees' root system, groundwater levels, drought, unsafe sidewalks, and much more).
A young Journaal 4 Reporter gives a great insight in the OPEDUCA-based education at primary school Titus Brandsma in Brunssum (Primary Education, Netherlands).
Students and Teachers at Titus Brandsma do a fantastic job with a focus on the Inquiry-Based Learning the OPEDUCA-element 'Flight for Knowledge' is based on.
In spring 2017 Titus Brandsma continued its journey towards OPEDUCA-based education when their young students decided to have a say and a role in the re-design and re-built of the largest supermarket in their community. Starting out from scratch, working on the concept for the architectural design, teams got on their way studying the Look & Feel, Logistics, Marketing and all that is part of this puzzle they will co-construct with the supermarket manager, an Architect and all involved as Partners in Education.