10 Basic Principles of Active Learning
These are not the only “10 Basic Principles” but they give a good idea of what Active Learning is about. The role of the adult is a facilitator, providing the environment, making sure toys are accessible to the learner’s hands and feet, and not involved in the act of playing until the end or invited.
1. Every One Can Learn
Lilli has met a very few learners that could not learn – they were dying. Unless impacted by survival, every child and older learner can learn. It is up to the parent, therapist or educator to keep finding the right situation/environment with enough support, responsiveness and interest to engage the learner.
2. Active Learning is Hands Off
Challenged learners often act passive and are treated as passive (everything is done for them). Active Learning involves creating supportive and responsive environments that are tuned to entice a learner to become active. When Lilli realized that blind and disabled learners often resisted any “guided hands” approach, she set about to create environments and situations that would increase a learner’s inclination to explore on their own. This means the “teacher” must disengage and not talk nor prompt until the activity is concluded. Kids learn through repetition (see #8)- don’t interrupt them.
3. Auditory and Tactile Primacy
Learners with vision impairments and neurological deficits rely upon hearing as a primary sense. Vision tends to be secondary, owing to control and processing difficulties. Tactile sense is also a prominent sense.
4. Responsive Environment, Short Sessions
The environment should provide excellent auditory and tactile feedback (not just stimulation). Use of the Resonance Board provides key vibratory input. The Essef Board provides optimal reaction to leg movements. The Little Room provides a warm inviting echo and exploration chamber. As Lilli says, “if the child cannot go to the room, the room must come to the child.” Many short sessions are better than one long one, especially when first using an environment.
5. Mix Variety and Constancy, Provide Comparisons
As anyone does, a learner benefits from moderated variety. That is, don’t change everything every time, but provide enough variation so that the environment has interest. Also, provide “alike but different” objects to invite comparison. Cycling through a large inventory of objects/toys allows for a rich, constantly interesting environment. Change some of the objects whenever the learner shows habituation to the objects available.
6. Work up to Weight Bearing
Given the discomfort of bearing weight, provide support until the learner has some control, and slowing increase the weight load. The Support Bench and HOPSA Dress are used to control weight on the legs. Start with no weight, toes barely touching.
7. Emotional Development Involves Mastery
It’s that smile of accomplishing something, doing something to their environment, rather than the environment doing it to them that fosters a critical step in emotional development. Related to the Active vs. Passive learning, that “ see what I can do” smile is a crucial goal.
8. Learning is by Repetition – Allow to fail
Kids learn by repetition. They must do something over and over to invoke memory and get the variations to make sense. Therefore, allowing them to have negative results without intervention (e.g. without moving an object into their hand as they miss on a reach) is as important as not interrupting with any cheerleading.
9. Talk and Reward at the End of Play
At the end of play is the time for the adult input, the language and commentary to describe what the learner was doing, and to positively reinforce their activity. Point at and jiggle the objects and talk about what they did. Ask questions and use short sentences. When a learner is ready and can engage in turn-taking games, then a new level has been achieved.
10. Limit Input, Wait for Response
As a general principle, remember that neurologically impacted learners usually need more time to take in, process and assemble a response. If you ask a question, remain quiet as long as possible before asking something again, and try not to supply their answer without some sign. This is always subject to judgment, as after a while the question may be forgotten. Repeat using the exact same words, so additional processing to understand new input is not needed.