NPR Story: Losing the Lecture

Happy new year!  I heard an interesting story on NPR tonight that seemed worth sharing. It’s about some physics professors’ insights on the efficacy–or lack thereof–of lecturing as a teaching tool. While this isn’t news to anyone, especially in our increasingly digital world, one section struck me:

“The classes only seem to be really working for about 10 percent of the students,” Arizona State’s Hestenes says. “And I maintain, I think all the evidence indicates, that these 10 percent are the students that would learn it even without the instructor. They essentially learn it on their own.”

He says that listening to someone talk is not an effective way to learn any subject.

“Students have to be active in developing their knowledge,” he says. “They can’t passively assimilate it.”

This was a great insight, I thought: we’ve spent years using a teaching method that might only seem to be effective for people who would have been successful learning the content without any instructor being involved. This might mean that the instructor adds no value to the learning experience. That’s clearly not the goal of having an expert teacher in the classroom, and it’s clearly important to find other ways for that expert teacher to reach his or her students in a way that engages more than just the ten percent of students who would have mastered the material on their own.

Read the article here: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/01/144550920/physicists-seek-to-lose-the-lecture-as-teaching-tool

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