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What Are the Benefits of Open-Ended Learning?

Designed to give students the space and freedom to solve problems in ways that are most natural and interesting to them, open-ended learning is a pedagogy most commonly implemented in early childhood education.

Thanks in large part to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget’s monumental contributions to our understanding of children’s cognitive development, today the act of play is seen not as simply a form of entertainment, but instead as essential to how children learn and explore the world around them.

However, the benefits of this learning style extend far beyond students’ elementary years, especially when it comes to helping cultivate an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Read below to learn a few of the many benefits of open-ended learning for students of all ages!


Authentic Social Development

When presented with a problem lacking one “correct” answer, new opportunities arise for students to collaborate. At the elementary level, this often can take the form of sharing and taking turns, whereas older students might collaborate to identify even stronger solutions. Because the ability to work together to solve complex challenges is both an essential life skill and one required in professional settings, the earlier students can practice this, the more prepared they will be.


Engaging By Design

Research has long shown that when students are engaged, they not only perform better academically, but they are also happier and more confident. Because open-ended learning environments provide opportunities for students to pursue topics and ideas that naturally interest them, they can lead to increased levels of engagement and produce a more enjoyable learning experience. This increased interest can accumulate over time, and when given the time and space to explore freely, learners will let their natural curiosity propel them to new discoveries.


Real-World Relevance

Especially when it comes to STEM fields, it sometimes can be difficult for educators to help students appreciate the real-world relevance of the subjects they are exploring. Borrowing from the tradition of experiential learning, educators can help their classes develop an interest in what they’re learning by allowing students’ own experiences and unique perspectives to guide them in their interactions with the curricula.


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