What is Active Learning?

Active Learning is a relatively new teaching technique that has broken from the traditional teaching mold of reading a lesson then lecturing to students. In Active Learning, students DO something active like discovering things for themselves, processing information and applying it for a specific objective. The fundamentals of active learning are talking, listening, writing, reading and reflecting. Active Learning is based on two primary assumptions, that:

       • Intrinsically, learning is a dynamic venture
       • Different students learn differently

There is ample evidence about the efficacy of this teaching methodology. It is found that students display greater learning and understanding. In active learning there is more emphasis on students listening and developing their skills rather than them transmitting information. Students are encouraged to explore their own values and attitudes. Active learning can be applied to all levels of students from the first year onwards. The basic techniques remain the same. Nor is it restricted by numbers but is equally effective when teaching large classes. Here are some strategies in applying active learning techniques to students in classes:

    • Assign students a task like a problem to solve or a question to find the answer to. Allow them 3-5 minutes to work on the answer alone then let them spend the next 3-5 minutes discussing their ideas with another student with whom you pair them. When they have had enough time to analyze the problem/question ask each pair to share their thoughts and ideas with the whole class.

    • Student debates are another good tool in active learning. Debates can be by groups or individuals, formal or informal. Debates give a student an opportunity to take a position, critically examine it to gather data and information in support of their view. If you want to give the debate a twist and present the student with an additional challenge, ask the student his or her personal view and then ask them to support the motion on the exact opposite to their stand.

Assemble students into small groups and ask them to present a brief newsletter relating to a particular topic. The students must be asked to include articles with pertinent research and post items of relevance and interest.

These are three examples, but there are many more exercises that a teacher should think of to generate student involvement and stimulate student interest.

Ms. Vivian Hobbs, the founder and mentor of Pinecone Learning Center, is a career educationist who has extensively researched the latest and most effective teaching methods. She has seen the principles of Active Learning applied in Italian pre schools and appreciated its advantages. Based on her observations she embraced this teaching methodology and applied it successfully to babies and little ones, generating an intrinsic curiosity in them. Today Pinecone applies the same principles with students from 3 years to high school but working individually rather than in groups. The kids that have passed through Pinecone's portals are a new breed of confident learners able to gain knowledge independently, free of teachers and tutors.

The 10,000 Hour Rule

childMalcolm Gladwell wrote the book, Outliers, which explores how the exceptionally successful people got to be just that. What he found was that hard work paid off - more so than IQ, and that most experts in their field weren't considered to be expert until they had 10,000 hours, or about ten years of experience. He also found their environment (parents, schools, and culture) shaped their lives and aided in their success as well.

There are significant implications to the 10,000 hour rule. First, who among us has the opportunity to immerse themselves for ten years at roughly four hours per day in our chosen field to become expert? Usually, this is limited to those who are given special privilege - you can't be a world-class pianist if you must work part-time. Your family must be wealthy enough to support your endeavor. So, class matters - "Talent always rises to the top."

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Pinecone's Strategy

Pinecone's methodology is to run the two foundation programs of Math and Reading at a pace which allows the child to assimilate the subject matter and apply the new acquired skills to practical problem solving. The coaching is structured so that the child is able to reason for him/herself to achieve the highest level of comprehension. Regular practice and support instills self confidence and stimulates an eagerness to progress to the next level. Each student is groomed to anticipate and surmount hurdles consistent with present day education. The end result is a happy and confident child who is justifiably proud of his or her academic achievements.

For more details of this Bay Area teaching center and its unique, result-oriented teaching methodology please visit its website at Currently it offers some special discounts, details of which can be gotten by calling 408.270.4548.

About Vivian Hobbs

Ms. Hobbs is a qualified educator with an M.S. degree in Industrial Psychology and 30 years of experience in math and research design. Children's education and research into the best learning methods have always been at the forefront of her career.

Where can I learn more?

Pinecone Active Learning is on Facebook and can be followed on Twitter. For further information on enrollment and fee structure, please call 408.270.4548 or visit the center's website at

For more on its unique tutoring methodology, please click on

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