Active learning and learning organization

Model Nr.: 
Developed by: 
Eszterházy Károly Hungarian University Institute for Educational Research and Development

S. R. Covey (2013) A kiemelkedően eredményes emberek 7 szokása. (The 7 habits of highly effective people) Budapest: Bagolyvár Könyvkiadó Budapest

Complex Instruction. Stanford University

S. Kagan (2009)  Kooperatív tanulás (Cooperative learning) Budapest: Önkonet

Komplex Instrukciós Program. Hejőkeresztúr

Purpose of the material: 

The complex learning method can be well matched to any curriculum, and it is possible to apply it to the preparation of a new material or to sum up other work. The teacher is the organizer of the process but not the leader. Participation of students and their autonomy increases. Responsibility is shared between the student and the teacher. Group work is the core of activity. The role of the CEO has a positive impact on students with low self-esteem. Students have to supervise the work process, they have to make sure that everyone is doing their job. This raises their level of responsibilty for the success of joint work while developing their knowledge on the subject, their verbal and interpersonal skills, they learn to communicate and cooperate. All members of the class are involved in the process, positive - creative energies are released.


The map is great, but you do not get where you’re aiming to go?

Do not look for a Chicago address on the Detroit map!


In the process of complex learning, students are actively involved in the design and implementation of their own learning process. By developing their transversal abilities (critical thinking, initiative, problem recognition and solution, communication, teamwork), they shape their personality so they can adapt to continuous changes throughout their career. We have developed our complex learning model with the help of Hunfalvy students, using the idea of the Stanford University (USA), the Hungarian Hejőkeresztúri Comprehensive Instructional Program and Kagan's cooperative learning techniques. How can we shape the competences needed for lifelong learning and support the well-being of our students in high school? How can the process of complex learning be achieved with students of different social background, learning style and ability?


Complex learning begins with the recognition of the problem and ends with solving the problem.


Choice of subject


The teacher and the students jointly designate the central topic of the lesson. The broad and flexible subjects of foreign language curricula help free choice. We can vote in a joint facebook group about what issues we would like to address in connection with a thematic unit.


Define a Problem, Objectives


The theme selection is followed by the definition of the problem. The tasks to be solved are complex, varied, open-ended; there are a number of solutions and they differ in groups. Students formulate their purpose, what they want to achieve by solving the problem, why it is important for them, what they will learn, what activities they will be able to perform, and when they think their work is successful.




Students choose the learning methods that can be most effective in achieving their goal. They brainstorm, make a mental map or sketch, collect material. They can use any available tools (dictionaries, photos, videos, internet, phone applications, etc.) to solve this problem. In defining tasks, goals and methods, students can enjoy autonomy and decide independently how they want to learn. They are free to choose what, why and how to learn. Regarding the central issue, they recall their experiences; they compare their thoughts and feelings. Starting from their existing knowledge, they expand and deepen their knowledge, and due to their personal experiences, the task becomes important to them.




Organizing the learning process


Problem solving takes place in groups. Groups have the opportunity to think about, try out new ideas, ideas can be shared with others, and mistakes are natural. Understanding of experiences and perspectives is inevitable, debate is part of group dynamics. Tasks can only be accomplished with the help of team members through innovative problem solving during the given time. The team's success is the responsibility of each team member.


Each student has a specific role in the work, eg. organize, ask, perform, acquire tools, collect material, evaluate, etc. These roles are exchanged during consecutive group work. This movement helps the team members to cooperate, to create respect for each other, and to develop their abilities in a multifaceted way.


The most common roles


1. The CEO: The job is to make sure that everyone understands and performs their duties within the group. Only the CEO can ask the teacher for help if needed.

2. Communication and Marketing Manager (PR): the task is to inform the class about the work of the group

3. The Secretary prepares notes on group discussions, summarizes the work of the group, compiles the written work of the group.

4. Logistics Coordinator: Provides all tools for group work and collects source material (dictionary, journal, magazine, useful links, etc.) to successfully complete the work. Checks devices and helps to use them.

5. Mediator: facilitates group communication, helps to resolve intra-group conflicts, encourages group members to participate actively in work. He is also the Messenger, who communicates with other groups if needed.


The role to be played by students depends on the type of task, but the number of the roles does not necessarily depend on the number of the group members. Based on the experience, the most effective is the group of three or four. Occasionally, a student may have several roles. New roles can be invented. Rotation of roles is an important requirement, as through the various tasks everyone has to learn about managing the work, reporting and working smoothly, which is a condition of success. It helps developing social interaction and organizing it at a high level.


Organization of class work:


1.Group forming

2. Goal setting and success criteria (the two aligned with each other: one goal and one success criterion)

3. Tuning for Work: Ideas, Personal Experience, Recall previous knowledge

4. Group work: Making a product

5. Presentation of product and work process

6. Self-assessment of groups

7. Peer Evaluation

8. Exit cards: feedback to the teacher


Rules in group work:


Participants have the right to ask for help from anyone within the group.

The person who was asked has to help those who need help.

Own tasks must always be completed.

The roles assigned within the group must be fulfilled.

To do others’ work is strictly forbidden!




The assessment examines the levels of achievement of learning goals, criterion-oriented. Methods for development evaluation: self- and peer-evaluation, and teacher’s oral reflection. The evaluation process is as follows:


1. The CEO evaluates the work of his own company. (Process Evaluation) The report should indicate how the above rules were implemented during work.

2. Groups provide CEO feedback on each other's performance in evaluating presentations

3. The teacher evaluates the work of the group.

4. Students evaluate the processing of the subject on the exit card.



We used the method in several classes 5 lessons/week

(Matiscsák: 9th grade Target Language Group, 18 lessons/week; Kákonyi: 11th grade, Second foreign Language Group, 3 lessons/week)


1st Lesson:

Topic selection, goal setting:

  1. How do we survive Hunfalvyt? (counselling about school difficulties) was close to the students. They easily identified problems related to their everyday lives (stress, teacher-student, student-student relationship, work overload, cumulative tasks, etc.) and were able to activate their existing knowledge. The groups were free to decide which section of the school life they were making posters or board games about and presented with the method of guided tours.
  2. The next task was to create a chat show called ’All the world’s a stage’. The students did not know what to do with the subject. While in the autumn project project they independently selected the topics, now they were reluctant to try, we had to help them choose the topic, until finally everyone found a suitable one.
  3. TV news: the use of reported speech.

Creating TV news was the students’ idea. In the brainstorming of the question 'What can reported speech be used for?' celebrity gossip was the first answer. The teams have selected a topic from a news show, there was a group that selected several. So they picked parliamentary news, sport, traffic info, weather, culture and, of course, celebrity gossip.




Group forming

1.’How do we survive?’ task: Groups formed spontaneously, on a friendly basis, only amongst classmates. There was no teacher influence. There were no roles within the groups. There were some students who were drifting during the work process. Some just got out of work (Mute), but some were preventing their team from performing (Resistant).

2. ’Theater’ task: grouping was done by drawing numbers, from the different classes the students mixed together. Within the group, roles were assigned: CEO, PR, 2 Logistic Coordinators who searched for material on the Internet. The previous Resistant took on the  CEO job, coordinated his team, was open to teamwork, controlled the work well. Silent wanted to be CEO too and managed it easily. Mute became the PR Manager and was responsible for communication. He spoke loudly and intelligibly before the class. Their inhibition dissolved, and they became brave. For the first time, comrades who were not sympathetic to each other even consulted on the "boring" task during the night on Facebook. Real team building was done. By assigning the roles, almost every member of the 14-member group was involved in the task. A student was absent at the beginning of the task and could not get into it.

3. TV news: The groups formed on a friendly basis, everyone could work with whoever they like to spend their time with anyway. The roles were distributed, and materials were actually brought by the Logistics Coordinator, written tasks - reports were organized with the help of the secretary, but everyone wanted to take part in the performance so it became a joint teamwork.



2nd-3rd lessons:

Preparation of product

Students worked independently on each of the three topics, the teacher's task is the tactful support of equal workshare, and the involvement of the peripheral students in the process. Within each group, there was a student who could not pick up the rhythm of the group and needed teacher’s support.


4th lesson:

Product presentation

  1. How do we survive? The posters and board games were presented by a guided tour on the open day for the 8th graders and their parents. Everyone participated in the presentation of the product. They realized that they were able to communicate with strangers in English, in front of other strangers, they noticed that they were capable much more than they were aware.
  2. Theater: Talk show. The inhibition of passive students has been resolved, everyone spoke up. However, it was challenging not to do personal monologues, but to create a real conversation. Spontaneity was missing in some places.
  3. TV news: The students made video footage of the prepared material and made a complete TV newscast of their videos. Almost everyone was involved in the presentation. Surprisingly, one of the most introverted little girls was in the star interview dressed as Justin Bieber. Again, it was proven that, as soon as we can hide behind a role, we forget our own inhibitions. The show was successful and the students watched each other's films with great interest.



5th lesson


  1. How do we survive? Based on the criteria in the appendix, we used verbal reflection. Their communication skills developed, they expressed their opinion in a cultured, honest and polite way in English. They enjoyed the work, only positive feedback was received.
  2. Theater: Two students did not like the method, it was considered too time consuming. Compared to the school topic, this one was less favored.
  3. TV news: The oral assessment went very well. After the groups discussions, the CEO of each group first assessed their own group and then the work of others. They were critical, but first they always started on a positive note. Written evaluation sheets were also prepared both for individuals and for groups.


This material reflects only the author’s view; the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.