What Is Passive Learning?

Passive learning means obtaining knowledge through exposure to data or behavior without the objective to learn, according to Psychology Dictionary. Examples of passive learning are drill and rote learning.

In rote learning, students acquire knowledge through memory drills and repetition, sometimes without the benefit of understanding, as explained by Psychology Dictionary. It leads to accurate responses without comprehending the reasons or the rational ramifications of the answer.

Following the rote model, students are considered "empty vessels" to be filled with knowledge, according to the teaching sourcebook provided by the California State University, Northridge. In a traditional class, the lecturing instructor verbalizes information to note-taking students. Teaching methods mostly involve verbal lectures, wherein the instructor serves as a "verbal textbook" who reads definitions to the class, and students are passive "tape recorders." When answering exams, students merely repeat what the instructor has told them.

The CSUN teaching sourcebook notes that instructors are generally expected to exhibit complete mastery of their respective discipline, and they only need to know their specific discipline. There is no need for them to know how to teach, and students are simply expected to record knowledge. In passive learning, instructors use a routine teaching method in which they compile their course notes over one or two years, and they repeat the same teaching style with little or no effort.