6 Encouraging Active Learning

Nina Keith and Christian Wolff


Traditionally, trainees have been viewed as rather passive recipients of instruction, with the trainer structuring the learning experience. Active learning approaches, in contrast, view trainees as active participants of the learning process. Active learning has in part become popular due to technological developments that facilitate more active engagement of trainees (e.g., e-based training methodologies). Secondly, in modern workplaces – which are characterized by frequent change, uncertainty, and less hierarchy – responsibility for one’s learning and development is more and more being shifted to the employees themselves. Apart from these practical reasons and necessities, there are also theoretical considerations and empirical evidence in support of active learning. Active learning approaches may lead to better transfer outcomes than traditional training approaches, particularly when the training goal involves adaptability of trained skills to novel tasks and requirements (i.e., adaptive transfer). At the same time, motivationally, active learning approaches may be more challenging, as trainees may be reluctant to take over responsibility for their own learning, and as learning may become subjectively more demanding.

This chapter explores active-learning approaches as well as benefits and challenges associated with their use in organizational training. We will begin with a discussion of the concept ...

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