Empowering Learners In and Out of Class
Active Learning

Empowering Learners In and Out of Class

From the media to the classroom, the world of the past was dependent on a linear transmission of information.

We, the teachers, used to be—and still are—gatekeepers. We actively teach, while students passively learn; they hand in assignments, they are required to take notes, and they memorize lengthy passages. We assign, they submit. But the old ways are not by default the good ways.

Thankfully, the tide is changing, and as emerging models challenge norms and set new standards, education, too, follows suit by:

  • challenging authority figures 
  • encouraging a participatory culture shift
  • questioning the value of one-way communication

Out with the old, in with the new

In ELT, we acknowledge the need to give students agency and accountability; from functional language to Task-Based Learning, every methodology points towards the same direction—and fairly so, as evidence suggests that:

…learners retain only 5% of what they learn from lecture. …10% of what they learn from reading. …20% of what they learn from audio-visual. …30% of what they learn from a demonstration. …50% of what they learn from engaging in a group discussion. …75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned. …90% of what they learn when they themselves become the teacher.

How to: A Guide to Student Empowerment

  • Encourage students to experiment, fail, retry—and rewind!
  • Give choices and encourage your students to set their own learning goals
  • Acknowledge efforts and foster conversations
  • Make topics relevant to your students’ experiences
  • Set the ground rules for debate activities
  • Gauge and hone student’s skills by assigning them roles
  • Encourage students to research, explore, and ask questions
  • Provide students with opportunities to self-monitor
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Teach students how to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning

Your Express Publishing books will facilitate the process towards student autonomy. Themed modules, ICT research tasks, collaborative activities, and the combined force of print and digital resources help students monitor their progress, pace their learning, and become self-reliant learners who can keep up learning outside the classroom without being micro-managed.

iWonder, our six-level series, makes the most of young learners’ natural curiosity by introducing ICT research activities to help them develop the cognitive skills necessary to explore the book’s topics on their own.

Have You Tried…?

The one-minute note

How much information can you recite in a minute? The teacher passes out a small piece of paper to students, who go on to write the thing that challenged them the most, the skills they acquired during the lesson, or their most important take-away. They, then, exchange the papers and briefly discuss their input. The one-minute note not only solidifies the students’ learning, but it also assesses the points that require additional practice.


The teacher divides the students into groups, and hands out as many pieces of paper per group as the students are. Each handout only covers part of the topic and the student receiving it should read it and work on it. The task wraps up with the students teaching each other.

Empathy mapping

Empathy mapping, a term quite popular in User Experience Design, challenges students to walk in someone else’s shoes. For this reason, empathy maps can be quite an immersive experience when working on readers or real events through CLIL approaches. Before you start, ask students to work together and brainstorm on what a character might say, think, do, and feel about a particular situation. To follow up, hold an open-class discussion to comment on their ideas and thoughts.

Buzz Groups

Break the class into small groups. Each group discusses a topic or a question for a few minutes to come up with ideas, arguments, or solutions.

Once the time is over, each group shares their ideas with the rest of the class.  Alternatively, have the students write their ideas down on post-it notes and ask them to stick them on a designated wall.

References and Further Reading

Five Ways to Empower Students. (2021). Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/empower-students-adora-svitak

Enabling Active Learning Through Technology. (2021). Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.smartsparrow.com/2016/07/01/enabling-active-learning-through-technology/

Active Learning Strategies. (2021). Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.queensu.ca/teachingandlearning/modules/students/22_active_learning_strategies.html

Cambridge International (2021). Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/Images/271174-active-learning.pdf

Quigley, A., Muijs, D., & Stringer, E. Metacognition And Self-regulated Learning. Education Endowment Foundation. Retrieved from https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Metacognition/EEF_Metacognition_and_self-regulated_learning.pdf

Gholami, V., Attaran, A., & Morady, M. (2021). Towards an Interactive EFL Class: Using Active Learning Strategies [Ebook]. Mashhad. Retrieved from https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/234674141.pdf

Concept Mapping. (2021). Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.saltise.ca/resources/strategies/concept-mapping/

Whenham, T. (2021). 15 active learning activities to energize your next college class. Retrieved 2 December 2021, from https://www.nureva.com/blog/education/15-active-learning-activities-to-energize-your-next-college-class

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