Why is active learning the best learning?
Let us take one step back and ask “What is active learning?”. The basic idea of Active Learning is that the person who takes action during class time is the one who learns the most and should be the student. Therefore, if classes move from passive lectures to active lectures, where students do things, then the learning for students will be better or more efficient.
So, is active learning better? Not always.
Diverse learning is better?
So, what is diverse learning? I kind of made up the term. I would call “diverse learning” an environment where a learner has the opportunity to experience and be assessed on doing in a number of ways.
For example, some of the best learning I have done in class was when both the professor and the textbook were not conveying the ideas successfully to me as the learner. In this case, it appeared I had no resource that could guide me along the learning path to understand the material. I learned to seek out other resources (textbooks, people, etc.) and to mold those other resources into the course I was being taught. If the teacher or textbook are always exactly what you need to learn something then you will never learn to seek out and use other resources or learn from them.
Many people will bash on the lecture as a bad format for learning. Some evidence might suggest that lectures are a poor efficiency use for learning, but equally, information and ideas will be delivered in your lifetime in a format that you simply need to focus on and extract meaning from. If you can’t do this, then you will not be able to learn from lectures.
Active learning is one of the many modes of teaching and learning that should be part of your diverse learning environment, but you need the variety.
Active learning is good though
In terms of maximizing learning, I feel active learning is on a higher level than many on how to use class time efficiently. It is, however, tricky to manage, more work for both professor and student, and non-conducive to many classrooms including their size, space, and content requirements.