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The verb ‘to learn’ has kept the same meaning from Old English: to acquire knowledge; to receive information. Of these, ‘to receive information’ sounds a very passive function, similar to the role of the pupils in Hard Times, who were ‘little pitchers … to be filled so full of facts’.

In classrooms nowadays learning should be active, and lessons are judged on how pupils are engaged in their learning, and how well they participate. Passivity is out. Teachers are required to set up activities so that pupils can investigate for themselves, work in groups, or share ideas in pairs. Other strategies include peer teaching, and peer evaluation. Pupils should reflect on their learning at the end of the lesson. This can be grandly called ‘metacognition’ ...

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