Activity-based learning is learning by doing. Rather than sit through a lecture, students going through an activity-based curriculum complete tasks and use their creative energy to guide them through the material while the teacher acts as a facilitator. This learning style has both advantages and disadvantages when compared to other instructional methods.
An activity-based curriculum is led by students. This creates responsibility for the students, holding them accountable for seeing the lesson through in a meaningful way. Students help plan, organize and execute the lesson plan from start to finish. Performing the material rather than just listening to it helps many students retain the information in a meaningful and lasting way.
The freedom of an activity-based curriculum creates an openness and spirit for experimentation in the classroom. Students tap into physical, mental and emotional knowledge as they explore the material through physical tasks. Students are asked to look at basic mathematics, language arts, social studies and science lessons from several perspectives, both creative and practical. A student who has a hard time learning in a traditional fashion may see an improvement through active learning.
An activity-based curriculum takes more time to plan and organize than a lecture. To plan an active lesson, teachers must master the art of making a basic structure for the lesson while simultaneously allowing room for student ideas and other deviations from the original plan. This requires thinking through possible setbacks, which proves difficult prior to having experience making and performing active lessons. As a teacher tests out her methods for making active lesson plans, they will continue to improve and become more effective.
It’s possible that an activity-based lesson won’t be fulfilled the first time around, especially if the teacher setting it up has no prior experience. This learning and experimentation curve for the teacher wastes a certain amount of class time. The teacher must gauge whether the potential time lost will be worth the benefits in the long run. This is impossible to know without trial and error.