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The Importance of Interactive Learning in the Modern Classroom

The concept of education and what it means to be educated are two major conflicting
issues that have troubled people for decades. In particular, the aims of education is another topic
of continuous debate that has boggled the minds of educationists, theorists and individuals
concerned with the educational realm. By examining the views of notable educational theorists
such as Sir Ken Robinson (2008) and Kieran Egan (1997) as well as exploring the influences of
educational aims in the past, we see that the nineteenth-century factory model of teaching and
learning becomes virtually ineffective in the present technological age. In order improve the
effectiveness of education in the 21st century, education systems must integrate teaching and
learning practices that coincide with the changes of that particular age. In other words,
nineteenth-century passive models of learning such as lecture-based learning must be replaced
with more interactive models of learning such as group discussions.
In his lecture titled Changing Education Paradigms, Robinson (2008) discusses that the
failure of todays education system stems from the factory-model mentality that was developed
during the Industrial Revolution. Robinson argues that the education model at this time reflected
the economic needs of the timeto produce and prepare individuals for the working world,
particularly with the skills that were required for certain jobs. Although the times have since
changed, this production line mentality, as Robinson suggests, has not. Today, the
effectiveness of linear learning has been significantly reduced as the influence of media and
technology have altered the ways in which we retain both knowledge and information. With the
exposure to various types of technology and media on a daily basis, Menand (2010) suggests that
we have progressed to a generation of students who are accustomed to dealing with multiple

information streams in short burst (p. 19). As a result, we have also fostered short attention
spans in the process.
In order to engage students in the learning process effectively and rectify their attention spans
in educational settings, interactive methods of teaching prove to more fruitful than standardized
ways of teaching. I experienced this when I was teaching a religious music class at my local
temple. During one of my lessons, I had to cover the theoretical material which required me to
lecture and write notes on the board. In about five minutes into the lecture, I realized that about
two-thirds of the students were either staring off into space, talking to their classmates, and/or
seemed disinterested in learning the new material. Becoming instantly disheartened at the sight
and realizing that majority of the class was not paying attention, I decided to change my method
of instruction. Instead of continuing to lecture, I spilt the students into groups and tasked each
group with one of the theoretical concepts. I asked each group to come up with a creative way to
remember the theoretical concept. After giving these instructions, I found the students actively
suggesting and proposing ways in which they could remember the theoretical concept. Through
this engagement, the level of excitement rose, and so did their ability to understand and grasp the
concept quickly. When it came to the testing period a few weeks later, I learned that majority of
the students had found the activity to be resourceful, let alone effective. At the end of the year, I
re-tested the students on the same theoretical concepts and was surprised to find that they still
grasped the theoretical material that was learned almost three months ago. The interactive
approach of enabling group discussion proved to be more effective and rewarding than the
lecture itself.
Robinson (2008) and Egan (1997) argue that by maximizing the role of imagination in the
learning process and by utilizing interactive learning methods, teachers create a desirable

environment of learning where students are continuously motivated to learn. By promoting this
type of learning, the burden of memorizing concepts is lessenedincreasing the capacity for
retaining knowledge on a long-term basis. The strength of recalling concepts over time is
successfully exemplified in the experience mentioned above.
The role of imagination in the educational process is minimized in todays world; in order to
instill affective learning and understanding in systems of education, educators need to implement
interactive and adaptable learning tools that correspond to the individual needs of students as
well as methods that reflect cultural, social, and economic changes of the respective period time.
The aim of education has vastly changed from its nineteenth-century definition; it is no longer
about teaching individuals the skills and knowledge for particular jobs, but about creating wellrounded individuals who engage in critical thinking so that each may connect and share his/her
unique ideas and abilities in virtually any environment or choice of occupation. The goal is not to
teach for production, but to teach for understanding, and thus, as Robinson (2008) suggests, help
students discover what is already in themselves and foster its growth.

Egan, K. (1997). The educated mind: How cognitive tools shape our understanding. Chicago, IL:
University Of Chicago Press.
Menand, L. (2010). The marketplace of ideas. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.
Robinson, K. (2008, June 16). RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms - YouTube.
Lecture presented at RSA Talk in RSA, London. Retrieved from