How the Active Learning Trend is Changing the Library Landscape

August 15, 2018 Chloe Wenborn

Unsurprisingly, with the introduction of technology into secondary and tertiary education, educators have moved towards giving students more autonomy over their own learning. But what are these new teaching trends and how are they being reflected within our academic libraries?

This recent wave of teaching is being referred to as Active Learning. Recently, educators and authors on the topic define active learning as an instructional method that engages students in the learning process. In short, active learning requires students to engage in their own learning. They are not just passively listening to lectures, rather, they are learning by doing. Technological advances only enhance this type of student engagement.

So how is the trend toward active learning affecting libraries?


Libraries and Trends in Education

The first thing to note is that our learning spaces and libraries have always reflected the teaching trends of the era. Previously in the twentieth century, before active learning methods became popular, didactic teaching methods were widely used. This teaching method was teacher-centric, meaning it was thought to be the teacher’s role to impart knowledge and the student’s role was to be the receptacle of knowledge. Our libraries reflected this teaching practice.

Today, with more quiet spaces and booths for individual study, the library has become a place where students would consolidate their learning from their teachers and complete research tasks using the content set by the teachers.

Now with the move toward students taking more autonomy over their own learning and engagement, the academic library landscape has changed dramatically to incorporate this.

Many university libraries have transformed their spaces or are preparing to undergo a transformation that supports the changing learning needs of twenty-first-century students.

Libraries as active learning spaces

Students are now using the library more as their own classroom/office space in which they can develop their own inquiries, question ideas, and search for answers aided by technology. To support this, libraries are investing more in digital resources and reducing the amount of content that is physically in their libraries in order to open up their space. This space is becoming more flexible with configurable study space, discussion areas, learning commons and extended hours. Many libraries who have the budget are also revamping furniture, adding more collaborative study rooms and media booths.

What’s the student response?

Students have had an overall positive response to these innovations in space and have used it to their advantage. They’re not only becoming more active in their learning but also more collaborative by problem-solving together, transferring knowledge, and motivating each other. Students also now have the opportunity to use some of these new library spaces for socializing, grabbing a snack or taking a break, making the library a more attractive place to be.

Librarians and teachers alike have recognized that this new way of learning is also providing students with more transferable skills that they will be able to take with them into the workforce after university.As the active learning trend seems to be here to stay and using the library space becomes more popular we are not just seeing the academic library space adapt for learning but we are also starting to see it adapt for socializing. Many students are also using the space for learning breaks with the incorporation of a library cafés, social spaces, multimedia facilities, informal lounge areas, and as a place to interact with the wider community of the university.

Have you noticed students engaging more actively in your library? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the Author

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