What exactly do we mean by ‘passive’ and ‘active’?

passive-vs-active-investing-2

Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it.
David Hockney

Like many others, I got very excited to see thispublished on the Ofsted website back in February:

Inspectors must not give the impression that Ofsted favours a particular teaching style. Inspectors should not criticise teacher talk for being overlong or bemoan a lack of opportunity for different activities in lessons unless there is unequivocal evidence that this is slowing learning over time. Do not expect to see ‘independent learning’ in all lessons and do not make the assumption that this is always necessary or desirable. On occasions, too, pupils are rightly passive rather than active recipients of learning. Do not criticise ‘passivity’ as a matter of course and certainly not unless it is evidently stopping pupils from learning new knowledge or gaining skills and understanding.

There’s so much in here that is cause for celebration, but the one line that continues to nag is this: “On occasions, too, pupils are rightly passive rather than active recipients of learning. Do not criticise ‘passivity’ as a matter of course”.

Isn’t the assumption here that ‘passivity’ means sitting still and listening? I thought so. I would contend that listening is a highly active still that requires focus and attention. But in our misguided desire to demonstrate what great teachers we were, we got pupils running around, massaging their brain buttons and slapping Post-its on every available surface. Active learning was reduced to a caricature.

Read more on The Learning Spy

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