Marlin's Active Learning System

Active Learning

"Active learning" involves the student taking an active part in their own learning. There is no sitting at the back falling asleep in our courses!

"Active Learning" includes:-

Research has shown that 35% of people are primarily visual learners (pictures/words), 25% are primarily auditory learners, (conversation/lectures) and the remaining 40% are primarily physical learners (hands on/doing). Therefore only 25% of students learn effectively from traditional lecture- based teaching. Consequently, many people fail at school and vow never to try learning again.

At Marlin our courses are different. They are designed by postgraduate educationalists and all of our staff hold formal adult teaching qualifications.

Experiential Learning

Experiential learning is a popular, if poorly understood term, used by many training organisations. It basically means learning by doing, ie. lots of hands on practice. However, there is more to it than just 'doing'.

In 1956, an educationalist named Kolb designed a cycle of experiential learning which stated that whilst people learn by doing it is also necessary to understand what you are doing and why. For example, a mother with five children has lots of experience and a professor of child development has lots of conceptual knowledge, but neither is guaranteed to be a good parent as you need some of both!

Kolb’s cycle consists of 4 parts (see table). All parts of the cycle must happen for effective learning to take place.


the actual doing


thinking about what you did


making sense of what you did


planning what to do next

As they develop, learners tend to favour one or two of the four parts of the cycle: ie. activists prefer doing, pragmatists prefer experimentation, reflectors prefer reflecting and theorists prefer conceptualisation. If a learner then chooses a course that uses a different part of the cycle to the one that they prefer, then they may learn very little, eg. theorists or pragmatists do badly on practical courses.

Our courses therefore utilise all aspects of Kolb’s Cycle to ensure that effective learning take place for all learners.

Seeing, Hearing and Doing

Considerable research has also shown that people learn best when all of the senses are utilised. In practice, this means: seeing, hearing and touch (ie. doing), since taste and smell are only relevant to a small number of courses, such as cookery.

Our courses therefore have a wide range of learning aids, such as multimedia, instructor demonstrations, course books, discussion and hands on practice with relevant equipment.

Cooperative Practice

On many hands on courses it is usually a case of "OK, who wants to go first?" followed by each student coming out and demonstrating in front of the class. This is extremely stressful, so instead Marlin students work in groups of two or three with workbooks and any equipment they need. They then help each other to learn while the instructor observes from a distance.

This 'cooperative learning' is far more effective as the students have contributed to their own learning.

Low Stress

Students often comment on how our stress free, cooperative learning has helped them develop their skills and confidence.


Multimedia learning aids consist of videos, slides or OHPs and a whiteboard on which to make notes.

Videos are useful for showing students actual events, such as a patient having a heart attack, whilst slides are better for showing text notes, such as signs and symptoms or a list of harmful bacteria. The whiteboard is useful for instructor elaboration or student thoughts and ideas.

Positive Reinforcement

Obviously, the instructor will correct bad technique, but students are never told, "No, that’s hopeless, don't do it that way!". Such negative reinforcement prevents learning and discourages students from trying their new skills.


Perhaps most importantly we aim for our courses to be fun and if students are not laughing within half an hour then something is wrong.

Marlin’s 'Active Learning' methodology will ensure that your learning is accelerated and you will remember the skills and knowledge for years to come.