Monday, July 04, 2016

should we ask or should we tell?

Happy 4th of July. It's been raining here for days.

We know that lecture based learning is for the birds. It is ineffective for many students, less effective for most others, and the teachers (and administrators and policy makers) who perpetrate it are grossly misinformed about how we learn. Teachers having been brought up on lecture based learning are often ill-prepared to teach except in the way they themselves were taught. The following is from Modeling best practices: Active Learning vs. Traditional Lecture Approach in Introductory College Biology–– Sokolove, Blunk, Flaim and Sinha, 1998
University science faculty have frequently voiced concern that active learning is fine in principle, but it takes too much class time to allow for student discussion and reflection and that the approach does not allow for enough time to 'get through the material." In this study it is true that less time was available for "coverage" in the active learning section (Section A). Yet, the results revealed that students enrolled in the active learning section did as well or better than the students in the traditional lecture sections on a majority of the shared test items, and that the performance of students in the active learning section improved significantly across the semester. The results suggest that the principle of parsimony, "less is more," implicit in the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996) for K-12 students is also appropriate for large lecture introductory science courses at the post-secondary level.
The following is from a more recent study, Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics:
Lecturing has been the predominant mode of instruction since universities were founded in Western Europe over 900 years ago. Although theories of learning that emphasize the need for students to construct their own understanding have challenged the theoretical underpinnings of the traditional, instructor-focused, “teaching by telling” approach, to date there has been no quantitative analysis of how constructivist versus exposition-centered methods impact student performance in undergraduate courses across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In the STEM classroom, should we ask or should we tell?
That research offers the following conclusion that happens to be consistent with the position of this blog:
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has called for a 33% increase in the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) bachelor’s degrees completed per year and recommended adoption of empirically validated teaching practices as critical to achieving that goal. The studies analyzed here document that active learning leads to increases in examination performance that would raise average grades by a half a letter, and that failure rates under traditional lecturing increase by 55% over the rates observed under active learning. The analysis supports theory claiming that calls to increase the number of students receiving STEM degrees could be answered, at least in part, by abandoning traditional lecturing in favor of active learning.
A staggering 55% increase in failure rates in lecture based classes is a remarkable statistic, but not surprising to those who routinely endure the boredom of lecture classes. What we learn hands-on is learned at greater depth and to greater lasting effect. Over the next few days, I hope to offer an explanation of why and how that's true. And to fix things, we will have to remove education from the hands of educational policy makers who fail to understand the essential role the hands play in learning.

Yesterday in the woodshop, I began making ukulele style bridges to fit box guitars. The process is interesting and effective, helping me to understand how the Chinese can make these to sell on eBay for about $2.00 each. I've made these in cocobolo and persimmon.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the love of learning likewise.

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