Workplace Essentials

Lifelong Learning

Keeping your professional skills current means becoming a lifelong active learner. This chapter introduces active learning skills that you can use in school and throughout your career.

Guiding Questions

As you go through this chapter look for the answers to these questions:

  1. As a student, what are my responsibilities in an active learning environment?
  2. How is work an active learning environment?
  3. What seven things can help me succeed in active learning environments?
  4. What can I do to learn more and remember longer?

What is Active Learning?

Active learning is when learners take an active role in their learning. Instead of passively receiving and memorizing information, active learning asks learners to explore, discover, process, apply, and evaluate. The instructor acts as a guide or facilitator who creates learning opportunities and then helps students find, assess and use what they learn.

Active learning helps students learn more and retain it longer by creating engaging learning environments where students can apply their learning in practical situations. Current research shows that learning is most effective when learners are actively and constructively engaged in creating their knowledge.[1]

The Challenges of Active Learning

Active learning environments include assignments, activities and teamwork, so time management and self-regulation skills are vital. Students do best when they are organized and practice self-discipline. As a student it’s important to ask for help when you need it, and use the resources offered to you.

Imagine learning as a kitchen

Imagine a kitchen where the instructor provides equipment, ingredients and recipes, and students create their own meals. The instructor supports and guides, but does not cook for students. Learners are responsible for their own meals – for using the equipment and ingredients provided, reading the recipes, practicing new skills and strengthening existing ones.

Active learning environments are similar: your instructor is a resource who helps you succeed, but you are responsible for doing the work, using the resources provided, and asking for help when necessary.

Or like a gym

You can sign up to the fanciest gym or workout class, but if you don’t go – or if you attend but don’t participate – you won’t benefit. Your instructor is like a gym coach: they provide the equipment and workout routines, but you’re the one who has to do the work.

How is the Workplace an Active Learning Environment?

  1. Most workplaces expect employees to take responsibility for finding information, learning and following rules and practices, and functioning without micromanagement. For example, a typical boss will give you the overview of an upcoming project and expect you to work out the details and project management plan. Most bosses are happy to answer smart questions, but don’t appreciate being asked questions that can easily be answered without help.
  2. Most bosses appreciate employees who give more than expected; active learning can help you know and do more than the minimum.
  3. You will need to keep your skills and knowledge current throughout your career. This includes identifying areas for development, and then following up with self-study, courses and/or mentorships.

How to Succeed at Active Learning

Click on each skill to see the details

Self-reflection and active learning

Reflecting on and noting your responses as you learn is a great way to improve your learning.[2] It helps you learn more and remember it longer.

How to reflect on your learning

As you read, watch, listen and do, note your responses. For example, make notes on:

  • Whether the content was easy or difficult to understand
  • What you agreed with; what changed your mind
  • What confused or annoyed you
  • What was interesting or surprising
  • Any s

How to Learn More and Remember Longer

1. Take note!

Taking notes as you learn helps you remember and understand the content. If your course has tests and exams, you can also use those notes as study aids.

There are different ways to take notes; find a way that works for you. The image slider below describes three effective methods:


How to take notes that help you remember better

  1. Get a pencil and 2 pieces of paper
  2. Watch How to draw to remember more (16:48) and participate in the drawing activities

2. Review within 24 hours

Reviewing your notes within 24 hours of the class is an excellent study strategy.[3] Do 10 minutes of review for each hour of class. For example, if your class is two hours, review for 20 minutes (within 24 hours after class). This is much more effective – and less stressful! – than trying to cram for midterms and exams. It also helps you spread your workload across the semester, so you’re not trying to cram and complete five assignments.

The cue card method

A sample cue card. The question is on one side and the answer is on the other side.sideThe Cue Card method is a quick and easy way to review. This method uses inexpensive cue cards (also known as index cards). Write a question on one side, and the answer on the other, then use the cards to quiz yourself.

Cue cards are small enough to use on transit, while walking, or in line at the grocery store. You can use them later to study for tests and exams.


  • Test yourself, or ask a partner to test you.
  • Go through the cards several times, removing cards that you can answer easily. This helps you focus on content you’re not yet familiar with.
  • You can work in groups, and even make a game of it. Give points for the first correct answer, or to everyone who gets a correct answer.


How much do you know about Active Learning? Test yourself!


  1. Michelene TH Chi and Ruth Wylie, "The ICAP framework: Linking cognitive engagement to active learning outcomes," Educational psychologist 49, no. 4 (2014): 219-243.
  2. James Rhem, "Using reflection and metacognition to improve student learning: Across the disciplines, across the academy," Stylus Publishing, LLC., 2013
  3. Nate Kornell, "Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than cramming," Applied Cognitive Psychology: The Official Journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 23, no. 9 (2009): 1297-1317.


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Professional Business Practice by Lucinda Atwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.