Passive learning holds the student responsible for absorbing the presented information on their own terms. The information may be presented in the form of lectures or assigned readings. In any case, the student is accountable for paying attention, asking questions, and performing well on tests.

Passive learning promotes defining, describing, listening, and writing skills. This process initiates convergent thinking, where a given question typically has only one right answer. Normally, instructors will test students’ understanding through quizzes, assessments, and handouts.

Passive learning benefits

  • Quickly presents a variety of information.
  • Allows lecture notes to be pre-planned and reused.
  • Gives the professor more control over course delivery.
  • Provides a concrete and organized presentation of the material.

Passive learning disadvantages

  • May appear boring or unrelatable.
  • Presents fewer opportunities to assess student comprehension.
  • Students are more likely to shy away from voicing a misunderstanding.
  • Students are less involved in the learning experience.

Activities that stimulate passive learning

If your students prefer passive learning, consider incorporating these options into your lessons.

Assigned readings

This is a classic example of passive learning. Students read and absorb the material on their own time and are responsible for studying the content.

PowerPoint presentations

The teacher designs PowerPoint lessons ahead of time, and students take notes on the information during class meetings. However, there is no built-in discussion or active participation from students, except when they’re prompted to answer questions. Most of the emphasis is on organized content and clear narration.

Traditional or online lectures

The bread and butter of most educational programs, a lecture gives the instructor full control over the information they present to their class. This allows you to teach a great deal of information in a short period of time, but it also puts more of the responsibility on you to ensure the information is communicated clearly.

Categories: Pedagogy


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