Sunday, September 18, 2011

21st Century teaching

There was an hour long panel on the American Media Radio show focused on why lecturing is the worst way to teach.  There were also about 5 articles on the web site that talked about specific research projects that have provided evidence for this.  Lecturing started in the days before the printing press when students couldn’t read in advance.  So the teachers (at all levels) had to present the material brand new to the students.  And, we didn’t really know any better about how people learn.

But their studies show that there are a couple of better methods:
  • Making sure that students read the material ahead of time, so no lecturing is needed during class.  One prof has a multiple choice quiz covering the readings for the day on the course web site that students have to complete in advance in order to get in the door at classtime.  I am going to use this one!
  • Peer learning. One physics prof discovered that when he lectured on a particular topic, about half the students really understood it.  So he had them pair up and explain it to each other.  They all got it after that.  Students who just learned the concept were much better at teaching it to the clueless students because the learning process was fresh and they have a more similar context.  So now he runs classes like this every day.  He asks a question in the day’s material, knowing that they have read it already, and the students break out to debate it with each other.
  • One entire university redesigned its instructional techniques when they hired a new president.  Now, all the classes are designed to be interactive and peer-based.
These articles gave me a lot to think about.  I try not to lecture and like to do peer-interaction breakout sessions.  But when students haven’t read in advance, it’s impossible.  So I am thinking if I start doing the pre-class online quiz, then I can do this more.

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