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When Getting Rid of College Lectures Makes Sense

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the cutting-back-on-nap-time dept.

Education 212

timothy writes "NPR reports that Harvard physicist and professor Eric Mazur has largely gotten rid of the lecture in his classes, after finding that in lecture-based classes, students tend to commit to memory formulae and heuristics, but fail to develop deep understanding of concepts. Mazur has tried — and seemingly succeeded — to cultivate deeper learning with a combination of small group peer-instruction and a tight feedback loop based on in-class polling about particular problems. Joe Redish also teaches physics, at the University of Maryland, and says, 'With modern technology, if all there is is lectures, we don't need faculty to do it. ... Get 'em to do it once, put it on the Web, and fire the faculty.'"

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What is the real motivation? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577440)

Joe Redish also teaches physics, at the University of Maryland, and says, 'With modern technology, if all there is is lectures, we don't need faculty to do it. ... Get 'em to do it once, put it on the Web, and fire the faculty.'"

Re:What is the real motivation? (4, Funny)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577552)

Wait tell they figure out that they can get a guy in India to do the lecture on video for 1/2 the price. Then we will outsource the professors as well.

Re:What is the real motivation? (1, Insightful)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577802)

He's trying to teach you how to think rather than what to think. Fail.

Re:What is the real motivation? (3, Insightful)

mrcaseyj (902945) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577806)

The only lectures on Artificial Intelligence on Youtube are by Indian professors, but I couldn't understand them through the accent. With lectures on video, you could listen to the best lecturer in the country instead of some third rate professor. They can do a frequently asked questions list and update the lecture according to the questions. Electronic books can be both much shorter and longer. That is, if you can follow the quick example you can move on, if you can't, then you click a link for an expanded explanation. I don't think we should be wasting $50000/yr and the mind of an intelligent person to blab out a lecture like a video projector. One on one or small group help would be a much better use of those resources.

Re:What is the real motivation? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578802)

The only lectures on Artificial Intelligence on Youtube are by Indian professors, but I couldn't understand them through the accent. .

I guess you missed this https://www.ai-class.com/

Re:What is the real motivation? (4, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577842)

Wait tell they figure out that they can get a guy in India to do the lecture on video for 1/2 the price. Then we will outsource the professors as well.

PLEASE, don't give them any ideas....it was fucking hard enough to understand they back when *I* was in college!!!

I swear there was an Oriental guy teaching one of my calculus classes...maybe Chinese. But it was the hardest thing to not laugh when when he was trying to describe getting the area of a tube from a flat sheet of metal/paper.

He kept over and over doing "Ok..first you roll the shit....then, you take the shit and..."

If Indian instructors are nearly as hard to understand at the tech phone supports I've had from "Bob" lately....well, it will surely degrade the already failing US education system. Hard to learn if you can't understand a damned thing the instructor is trying to say...

Re:What is the real motivation? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577908)

Porsche Cayennnnnnnnnnnnne Turbo! V8!!!

cayenne8 !!!


Re:What is the real motivation? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577946)

Porsche Cayennnnnnnnnnnnne Turbo! V8!!!

cayenne8 !!!

Nope...I've never owned car car with more than 2x functional seats, and I'd not take a SUV if someone gave one to me.

I had a Porsche once...'86 911 Turbo, fun car, but Katrina killed it.

The name is for the cayenne chile pepper.

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578616)

The Cayenne drives like a car. I understand that you're a roadster type of guy (as is my father), but you should try the dark side... try itttttttttt... ;-)

Re:What is the real motivation? (5, Insightful)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577890)

Well, really....what IS the value of a college education today?

With the recession, so many people have gone back to school for graduate degrees that the Masters is rapidly becomming (if not already) the new Bachelor's degree.

But the reality of it all...it is complete bullshit. Going to college doesn't guarantee success, or even a career. Hell, it doesn't guarantee you sweet fuck all...you have taken 4 years and god only knows how much money that got you a piece of paper that suggests you should be able to do some task with some level of competency.

Now, if you're my doctor...yeah, I want you to have that piece of paper that says "M.D." on it. I want my lawyer to be able to read and interpet legalese (although, quite frankly, I do a better job of it than most of the lawyers I know). I want the engineer designing the bridge to have a P. Eng. and actually understand that shit, since lives are on the fucking line. But for a netadmin? You come in with a 4-year Bachelor of Science in CS looking to get an entry-level netadmin post I'm going to see you as vastly over-qualified and probably reject you flat out. Fuck, in my home province, it is mandatory for a librarian to have a minimum of a masters degree for a job that paid in 2004 less than 40K a year...make sense out of that fucker. The poor person we hired at the city the one year had something like $100K in student debt & pratically cried when she saw the offer.

The education bubble is the next great crash to come, where people finally stand up and realize that getting fleeced for $40K a year by an institution so that little Timmy can have a degree in Mediterranian Art which will serve him well while he cooks fucking fries at McD's for the rest of his life just isn't fucking worthwhile, and you will see a re-surgence of cheaper "technical schools" that teach you what you need to know in your chosen profession & fuck all the pretentious bullshit.

Of course, they (the schools) have "educated" us all on how special and unique and wonderful the fucking college experience is, and how shallow and empty your life will be if you don't go to university. Well seriously, fuck that shit. I drank beer, fucked girls, and even made the occasional class when I was in college. I could drink beer & hire a metric fuckton of whores for the prices universities charge today.

Education is an over-hyped over-valued industry, and it is just a matter of time till the public tells universities to go fuck themselves.

(As I funnel absurd amounts of my pay into college funds for the kids...yeah, I'm a fucking hypocrite)

Re:What is the real motivation? (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578112)

The trick there is to specialize and only get the certificate that applies to what you're wanting to do. I got my TESL last summer and spent much of the time since working part time, but starting next month I'll have a good job for at least the next year. After that I should have few problems getting more work as I'm willing to relocate pretty much anywhere in the world. And some of those jobs pay really well. $50k for a job in Afghanistan and virtually no taxes is quite a huge chunk of change.

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578262)

Oh, I even understand that...the giant hypocryte in me is back at fucking school taking a certification program...but it is one certificate that will open alot of doors for me.

Of course, that speaks nothing to the fact that my work experience and history already makes me MORE than fucking qualified for the work I want to be doing, but because of assholes in education selling stupid pieces of paper with fancy letters have convinced employers that I can't do the fucking job without the stupid piece of paper I have to go get the stupid fucking piece of paper.

The (post-secondary) education industry is a fucking joke...they're marketing companies for the most part...nothing more, nothing less. "Come to our school where everyone will see our name at the top of your stupid piece of paper you get at the end of it and think you're fucking awesome".

And everyone buys into what the big advertising engine tells them to do. I hate using the term, because it is far too overused...but if it wasn't for the sheeple believing in the bullshit the ads tell you, we could do away with the bullshit of education and get back to educating people.

Re:What is the real motivation? (2)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578620)

Certification is not for you.
It's to cover the ass of the HR person that hires you.

Re:What is the real motivation? (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578754)

Haha, ironic, certifications are nothing but memorization. I've met so many retards who are certified up the ass, who have their head up there as well. Ex. guy w 12 MS certs asking how our vmware network works, less than useless, I figured that stuff out as part of the job and got a lot better at it w time where I can set up from scratch. Based on the prof. teaching theory, certifications can't exist in such theory. People who are tools (95% of corporate employees) would struggle too, so this learning style isn't good for corporate America at all, but rather for entrepreneurs, r&d, self-employment, cornering niches, stuff that requires thinking and innovation and *shock* common sense.

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578828)

Oh please.

The best argument you can make on that line is that it "covers the ass of an HR drone too stupid to actually think and even test a potential applicant on their claims of knowledge".

That piece of paper...certificate, degree, whatever...is a fucking useless pile of garbage not even worthy to wipe one's ass with. ALL it tells you is that X Individual spent some amount of time and was able to somehow "Pass" a certain number of courses, some of which related to Degree Z.

That's it. It doesn't tell you that Individual X actually knows shit about fuck, whether life or the job you are employing them in. It doesn't tell you if the guy spent 4 years on a degree...or took 15 to get a Bachelor of Sucking Cock. It doesn't tell you if they know shit about Subject Z, or cheated their way to that piece of paper.

HR drones use these stupid pieces of paper so when Applicant X is a giant fuckwit they can come back with "But he has a degree in Dicksucking! I assumed he would be a good dicksucker!" and hopefully shield the fact that they are just as stupid, useless, and should be fired for being incompetant HR boobs.

Fucking spend time getting to know an applicant. Fucking TEST THEM with real-world problems they will face day-to-day. I have a fucking idiot I work with that has a fancy-schmancy business degree from a goddamn good school that can't fucking think of how to get out of a wet paper bag...they're fucking useless. But hey! They have a degree....

Speaks volumes for the good of the degree, doesn't it?

Re:What is the real motivation? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578982)

Not really, if you're willing to pay enough for qualified people to apply, the certificate is basically just a screening criteria. When you're doing the interview and checking references you should be determining if the person knows what they're talking about.

Ultimately, degrees, certificates and diplomas as requirements rarely have anything to do with the job these days and are all about restricting the number of applications that the HR drones have to look through. As if they have anything else that they ought to be doing.

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578702)

I love reading your posts. Seriously, I agree and I can feel the fucking rage as I read them.

Re:What is the real motivation? (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578284)

Education is an over-hyped over-valued industry,

Education is not an industry, it is a lifestyle. Most Universities still don't get this, nor do a large proportion of those that attend it. ALL Universities do is certify that you've gone through a prescribed obstacle course towards a particular career. My Degree is in a field I've never actually practice in, it is worthless other than for a check box on Applications. To Employers it means "will jump through hoops". My CSV is filled with all sorts of "education" that came after college, and I've stopped looking for Certificates of any sort, having a bunch that are completely worthless (Novel, Win 2000 Server etc).

Suffice it to say, Universities are about getting your first job, and that check box. Everything else after that is about real education as a personal passion.

Re:What is the real motivation? (1)

Samalie (1016193) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578478)

Education is not an industry, it is a lifestyle.

And that, really, is precisely my point. And the universities DO get it, although most of the sheep going to university do not.

Colleges/Universities (which exception to the best of the best of the Ivory League) are even marketing ON the experience now. Meet friends that will last a lifetime! All that warm and fuzzy babble they spew to try to get you to spend your dollars at their institution. And in that, it has become an industry, rank with bullshit advertising, no different than the constant bull fighting between Coke and Pepsi...education has become less about the education you get and more about the college experience.

Well, if anyone reading is looking for the college experience, I can sum it up for you:

Get drunk. Fuck lots of people. Get VD - hopefully one treatable by a shot in the cock and not one that is uncureable. Get drunk more. Join a group of like-minded people to get drunk with. Copy lecture notes off of that one asshole that actually goes to class. Drink copious amounts of caffiene, commit all the spoon-fed bullshit to memory, and vomit it back up. Pay $100K over 4+ years, get a piece of paper that allows you to tick off a box on a job application.

Yeah, that's fucking valuable.

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578844)

the sheep going to university
warm and fuzzy babble they spew
rank with bullshit advertising
Fuck lots of people.
a shot in the cock
that one asshole that actually goes to class
spoon-fed bullshit
that's fucking valuable

u mad?

Re:What is the real motivation? (4, Insightful)

CodeInspired (896780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579402)

Dude.. we get it. You don't value college education (except for those "Ivory" league doctors and lawyers and such). Some people do see value in it, otherwise they wouldn't bother putting the checkbox on the application.

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

wickedskaman (1105337) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578530)

Convert those funds into technical school funds and then take the vacation you've always wanted with the rest... :)

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578678)

well said sir, I am one of those individuals who, after one year and 40K of debt(for a business degree) said fuck it, I will figure out what I want to do then go to technical school. I know so many people who have their bachelors and, realizing they cant do anything with it, are going to tech school for something like construction! Good thing mommy and daddy paid their whole way though, I wasnt so lucky. Also, "metric fuckton" is going into my permanent vocabulary!

Re:What is the real motivation? (3)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579108)

I disagree completely. There's a world of difference between a person who attended college, and one who didn't or slept/partied through it. A good public University education is worth the price.

Re:What is the real motivation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38579352)

Sea kelp.

This is a wise idea (2)

Roachie (2180772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577476)

We cant have students memorizing formulas and heuristics.

Re:This is a wise idea (5, Insightful)

nwf (25607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577746)

We cant have students memorizing formulas and heuristics.

One way to do this, which is what my school did, was to test based on the theory. Teach the specifics and write the exam such that you are pretty much required to use the theory to solve the problems. It takes more work than the simple recite the formula tests that professors like since they don't have to think much to create them. We quickly weeded out the people who memorized things. Personally, I do much better learning the theory and applying it than memorization.

Re:This is a wise idea (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577876)

Also memorizing something doesn't mean you understand it, when people memorize things and draw conclusions from them that's different from just looking for a grade, but those people tend to be self-motivated to learn, thus the theory is better for them anyways, they'll learn the details themselves if interested. Also helps keep people who don't belong out of fields they wouldn't be happy in to begin with. Then again some people are just looking for a paycheck to feed their family, but still what about advancing society for future families?

Re:This is a wise idea (2)

nwf (25607) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579294)

I think that's one of the points of the article: memorization as a learning strategy is doomed to fail.

Just because one professor at a prestigious learning institution cannot teach in a way that fosters theoretical understanding doesn't mean we should throw out lectures. I found lectures helpful because I learn well in them, when backed up by other classwork.) I felt I had to be there regularly to learn. I suspect that many people who focus on memorization miss a lot of lectures. Plus, I don't think I'd like small groups. Sounds too new touchy-feely.

News at 11, not everyone learns the same. :)

Re:This is a wise idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577982)

I had a physics 101 professor specifically change his test to defeat my high school formula sheet. It was a little discouraging to know it only took a changing acceleration in the problem. He was an excellent professor.

Re:This is a wise idea (2)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578042)

I think this approach misses the point. Asking in context, every time a teacher teaches something it's going to be taught in a different way. Students will come up with different questions depending on the context.

I always paid careful attention to the classes and asked as much as I could. Some people think it's annoying, but I think that's the fundamental part on why the professors are there. Otherwise, everyone can just read a book or watch a video.

So my main concern about this is that we're focusing on what students, lazy professors and educational corporate interests think classes should be.

Re:This is a wise idea (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578158)

It is annoying, and the correct solution to that is basically to have more seminars as a core part of the class. It's something that we had when I was in college and IIRC they also do them at Harvard as well. The basic idea is that it's structured time during which you can discuss the subject matter and often times you get to use the information you've been studying to see sort of how it works.

Obviously that's inferior to actually using it in the real world, but it's significantly more useful than sitting through a lecture about it and provides for more opportunities to ask questions.

Have to agree (1)

vawwyakr (1992390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577516)

My Father In Law has been getting classes on DVD for a while and loves them. I have watched a few and I think they're just as useful as any lecture I ever had. What they should do is provide the video lectures along with class notes and assignments and meet to ask questions and give details. If the videos are done well (I think a live studio audience with a few plants that ask common questions might be a good idea just to make it feel organic) then it should ultimately cut way down on professor time in large lecture halls and give them more time to have individual or small group interactions. Plus videos can we watched again! Either for studying or maybe even recapping later on in life.

Re:Have to agree (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578070)

and give them more time to have individual or small group interactions

Great except that last thing that many professors at a large number of research schools want to do is interact with underclassmen. Heck, most of them don't want to deal with masters students, if you're not a phd candidate or a postdoc then you're not worth their time. I know this is a broad generalization but talking to many of my friends that went to top tier schools or large public research universities this was a common problem, it's one of the reasons I selected a school where the top degree was a MS, the professors there actually wanted to teach =)

Agree but *keep* the class time (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578234)

I've had some professors provide their standard lectures on video to watch at our convenience before a class. However what made this a vast improvement is that we still had classes, the class time was used for interaction between the professor and the students. The professor would discuss the lecture, call on students to offer comments, solve some problem, etc. The professor also fostered, directed and refereed discussion and debate between the students. This was so much better than listening to stock lectures that the professor had given many times before. The professors even preferred spending the time interacting, it wasn't just the students.

This interaction between professor and student and between students is what makes the university experience more valuable than just watching videos of lectures. I think it may also be getting back to a more classical university experience, more education, less factory.

Re:Agree but *keep* the class time (1)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578940)

I agree with you in part. Every class has easier material as well as review of topics thought to have been learned elsewhere. Those should be able to be on canned video. But I think once you get to the main content of the class there is something to be said for being able to interrupt the professor to ask questions or clarify a point. Writing them down while watching a video isn't the same. Not to mention that sometimes other students will ask something you had not considered. What I do think would be beneficial is making the lecture (with interaction) available online afterwards for future review.

Of course, none of this is really relevant to Eco 101.

Good stuff here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577582)

And no, the answer is not video lectures from Khan Academy or MIT Open Courseware.

Both is needed (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577604)

The very first contact is most easily done by lectures, you simply gather more information than by group work within the same time. Memorize stuff is important. Actually when teaching maths to fellow students I often discovered that they even lacked the formulas and never came far enough to use understanding to calculate something by quantity. The author is true on one point although: To gather real understanding you need to get involved into problems and discussion. Thats why normally you get homework after lectures and are encouraged to sit together with friends to solve them. But without lectures I do not see people progressing fast enough into new topics.

Re:Both is needed (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577682)

Is that how you studied English?

Re:Both is needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38579462)

Here's some English for you: Go fuck yourself.

Re:Both is needed (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577976)

They probably don't care too much about math, can't change somebody who doesn't want to. To me though, I'm a kinetic learner, lectures are a real bore. I've been out of hs a while now and guess what, I haven't used a calculus formula yet! (Maybe to impress the opposite sex once or twice :P). I knew I wouldn't care going into IT or w/e so I learned the formulas, but never the underlying stuff, I can get back into it pretty quick this way, I used the book and a worksheet though, the teacher was great for questions but it was sheer volume of doing hw that let me pass the AP test. W a computer on the other hand, I can explain the IO& mechanical functions that let your keyboard work, so to each his own.

If they are correct... (3, Interesting)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577642)

Then Kahn Academy will replace all the schools given enough time.

Re:If they are correct... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577738)

I disagree. Students will always value that piece of paper handed out by *insert name brand college here*.

Re:If they are correct... (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578214)

Students won't, but employers will. Having a degree from a respected institution of higher learning is one way in which employers can screen applicants. Which is a shame because going to Harvard or Yale doesn't really mean much in the grand scheme of things.

Re:If they are correct... (2)

Questy (209818) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578992)

The problem here is one of relegating your own hiring practices to the realm of the very employee you are trying to avoid. Let me explain... I helped a local University (the one I attended) install a pretty massive software package. I trained their entire team on how to use it, and how to bring in what they knew about UNIX scripting to make the thing even more powerful. Six months later, one of the basic admin gigs came open, and I applied for it. I was well qualified for the position, and my experience outweighed everyone else in the department. I was perfect for the job. The screener was the department head, who was a good friend of mine as well. He was painfully sorry he couldn't hire me because the University had a "college degrees only" policy for hiring, and would have no one in these positions that didn't have a degree. Best part: a girl with a degree in Kinesiology got the gig in the computing services department doing that job. I had to train her too.

Re:If they are correct... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578266)

Not when it costs them as much as a house and prevents them from buying a home. For those that need Ivy League papers, money isn't an issue anywhere near as much as it is for the vast majority of students.

Lectures are good for a quick overview (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578662)

What's it about. what's it mean.

Some/Many though are write/copy or photocopy/blank stare exercises. Completely useless. The whole point of a human being is interaction.

Just to say, Kahn Academy is a good and could become a fabulous resource, along with Project Gutenberg, Google Books, Wikibooks.

One thing they are all missing is how the elements relate to one another, and to the real world. A complaint I have about conventional teaching as well.

Re:Lectures are good for a quick overview (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579578)

One thing they are all missing is how the elements relate to one another, and to the real world. A complaint I have about conventional teaching as well.

That's my point. If your options are Conventional Teaching vs Kahn Academy then Kahn Academy will replace Conventional Teaching. Small group peer instruction is far too expensive for anyone except the wealthy to implement, and they already get it and pay for it with private schools.

I disagree; Lectures are valuable (5, Insightful)

AlienSexist (686923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577656)

I, for one, am an Aural learning type. Lectures have served me very well, even to the extent of "deep understanding of concepts." For those that share my learning type, Lecture is often all that we need to ace exams and retain important knowledge. During my studies at the University I attended every single lecture that I could attend and took excellent notes. No amount of reading assignments or labs (also appeal to different learning types) had the same educational impact on me as watching an expert describe the concepts, illustrate them in a live environment, and respond to questions that the students actually have on the subject. A little bit of homework to cement the knowledge was all that was necessary.

Even amongst techies there are those that stay fresh by reading the latest books and others that stay fresh by attending conferences and just listening to what others are doing. There are still others that learn best by grinding away their own personal experiments.

I realize that it is proposed to record lectures once and just make them available. That may help considerably. But my guess is that Humans are naturally tuned to listen to other Humans (oral traditions) and recordings may not bring the right level of engagement.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577772)

Then you should be served by a lecture on video.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577814)

I am also an aural learner - I was once asked by a professor to give an account of the previous lecture, and my account was so accurate and detailed that he thought I had taken previous classes in the subject. I would take detailed notes, but almost never referred to them - I think they worked best as a way for me to schematize what I was learning in the lecture, rather than as an aide de memoire.

I too find that non-interactive recorded lectures do not work the same way for me that an in-class interactive lecture works, so I do best in classes with fewer than 50 students where I (and other students) can ask questions.

That said, I've taken other courses structured like Mazur's, and they've worked well for me, too - but that's probably because they have an aural/interactive component.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578198)

please see the post just below yours.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (1)

Velorium (1068080) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577972)

Actually I'm sorry to say but the whole auditory/visual learner thing was debunked a couple years ago. Huge upset in psychological research in recent times. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091216162356.htm [sciencedaily.com]

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578190)

Well that settles it, then. Clearly, the GP was mistaken in their understanding of the material. Carry on.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (1)

AlienSexist (686923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578362)

That article is simply a report that outlines a proposed evaluation model and poo-poos past research that didn't use that model. Surrounding that report from Science Daily are others such as: Despite Popularity, Not Everyone Can Successfully Learn Through Online Courses http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080226113511.htm [sciencedaily.com] and
Visual Learners Convert Words To Pictures In The Brain And Vice Versa, Says Psychology Study http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090325091834.htm [sciencedaily.com]

So what if "Aural" is passe'.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (1)

Ben4jammin (1233084) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578558)

Debunked may be a bit harsh, as they are mostly saying that the studies they reviewed lacked credible findings due to the methodology used. This leaves us with several possible explanations:

1) the idea of different types of learners is not valid
2) the idea is valid but we haven't figured out how to measure it scientifically
3) the idea is close to, but not the actual explanation

Being that our memories are combinations of our senses and that some people do seem to recall certain aspects easier than others I wouldn't say the idea is completely without merit. But as the article you referenced says, there isn't enough proof to justify using scant resources on something that may not help.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (5, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578594)

I, for one, am an Aural learning type.

This [sagepub.com] review of the literature finds no support for the notion of matching instruction to learning styles. The whole thing was hogwash and wishful thinking.

Another issue here is that although the article is specifically about learning physics, you seem to be talking about learning in general. There is very strong evidence [mit.edu] that lecturing is simply an ineffective way to teach physics in particular.

Re:I disagree; Lectures are valuable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38579614)

The biggest flaw with this way of thinking is that it implies that learning only occurs within the realm of academia and in the lecture halls. True learning happens everywhere. An educated person is capable of learning through any media or circumstances. If one's method of learning is limited his ability to utilize the tools obtained from education will be significantly limited. Thus, the ultimate goal of education is to produce those who can educate themselves. Not by merely memorizing and understanding what is offered but by analyzing and expanding the mere knowledge to form one's own theories and hypotheses. this requires active learning, one that utilizes whatever is given and adapts to any environment.

I personally skipped pretty much every lecture that I deemed unworthy, i.e. those without ways to engage in intellectual conversations with the faculty or students. I still aced those classes because reading a textbook was more than adequate to ace the written exams. These types of classes should be abandoned in favor of those truly engage and challenge students. These classes were not only limited to art and social science classes. Many of the METS classes were as bad as those in the social science.

Discussions (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577662)

My favorite class in college was, where the professor assigned us a chapter or two to read, and a few things to pay attention to. Then in class we discussed them, and asked questions. It was a lot better than simply listening to him lecture on the topic.

Re:Discussions (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577846)

Much more common in the soft sciences and liberal arts than in hard science classes.

I had a history class and an English lit class like that.

The history prof just came out and told us that reading the text out loud would be a better lecture than anything the prof could say, or at least thats what his boss, coincidentally the dept chair and author of the text, told him. We all had a laugh over that one. So we were basically forbidden by dilbertian management from having a lecture in that class.

Re:Discussions (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38577970)

As an instructor, this is how I prefer to teach. Unfortunately, average reading comprehension is terrible in survey courses. So I can either lecture to reinforce important concepts or let otherwise good students fail because they are poor readers. I teach the same class online and in the classroom and in-class students tend to do better than the online ones. The only difference is listening to me lecture in-class. I posted the same lectures online with narration, but it hasn't been as effective as I had hoped. Interaction with the instructor in small classes (30 or less) seems to be the key for success for students who struggle with the material.

Re:Discussions (1)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578096)

That's not a lecture course. That's a discussion course. A fair bit of research shows that it's the best way of learning. The problem is bang for your buck. U's want large lecture sections to provide students "contact" hours with professor-rank faculty. Having a faculty member drone away at 200 students is a good way to tell your dean that you're giving general education students access to your research faculty. Without actually giving non-majors access to your research faculty. To be fair to departments, if colleges within the U's really wanted general education students to have contact with professorial faculty, they would allow departments to hire more professors, so that the department wouldn't have to choose between area coverage for majors and service courses for general education students.

Careful (4, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577700)

Some professors engage their classes in discussion of questions raised during lectures, others just throw up overheads and blab the same speech as the past five years.

I've always been a proponent of class discussion and group learning as opposed to the dissemination of information from on high as being fact.

The most important things you can do in University are to take courses in Logic, Philosophy, and Critical Thinking. Those will teach you to learn and to argue like a civilized human being, preparing you to convince your boss to implement your ideas, your customers to engage your services, and the government to hear your concerns.

Re:Careful (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578110)

Anyone with logic and critical thinking skills would come to the conclusion that anyone going to college to learn logic and critical thinking skills is a fucking moron that I don't want using logic OR thinking for themselves.

University "mattered", and I use that loosely, when 2/10 to 3/10 kids got to go at all, the rest took up trades (you know, those professions where you actually have to build shit, fix shit, etc), and of those 2-3 kids in 10 that went, probably 30% failed out.

Now effectively everyone gets accepted somewhere, and failing you out means that you stop comming and paying tuition, so nobody fails. So its just like back in 1997-2000 or so when horseshit companies were churning out morons with pieces of paper with "MCSE" on them but with the real-world skills barely good enough to find their genitals with their hands with a flashlight...it becomes a running joke un the poor parent's that have to pay for it, and the global population of students with a soul-crushing amount of bankruptcy-doesn't-even-clear-this-shit debt who are slinging overpriced coffee at Starbucks.

Go team.

Lectures are an old technology (2)

TeslaBoy (1593823) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577724)

dating from the 18th century in their current form, except the slide projector/powerpoint. Ever since my college days 10 years ago, many students were recording sound in lectures rather than take notes. The better of our lecturers put their slides on our network before class, as students who are copying the slides from the screen are really not listening to the lecturer. Now I teach my own classes, this approach allows me to talk around the slides, in a much more open style, following the message rather than the words of the slides. In a way, this style goes back to the lecture style before the slide projector. This story describes the next step. If we could do the talking part before the class, we could use class time for more interactive activities and group/seminar work. However, I maintain that we need a teacher or a TA working with the groups, as many small groups get lost without a little leadership. Maybe these guys have found a better feedback system. My one problem with the recorded lecture is that students can't stop to ask the speaker questions in lecture. While most students never do this, those who do really help understanding and moving the class forwards.

Re:Lectures are an old technology (2)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578390)

as students who are copying the slides from the screen are really not listening to the lecturer

Please, I beg you, since you say you are now teaching, take a class on learning modalities! There are MANY students for whom listening and transcribing is going to be a very positive way of reinforcing what they heard. Audio and Visual are not the only ways to learn. Heck in some classes I learned best by putting my head down and listening and then visualizing the concept, to an uninformed teacher or professor it might appear as though I was sleeping or ignoring their teaching and might be offended but the truly great teachers I had knew from my interaction with the class that I was thoroughly absorbing the material.

Watch lectures at home, do homework in class? (2)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577826)

Why not get all the passive shit done at home - like watching a lecture and taking notes. Then come to class and do all the hard shit in class? Anything not finished in class is then required to be taken home.

Re:Watch lectures at home, do homework in class? (4, Interesting)

supercrisp (936036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578164)

As a professor, allow me to say "Ha ha ha!" Or, "Yes, that sounds great, but...." The most common question asked during the last final exams I gave was "Do you have a pencil I can borrow?" Sadly, we're not allowed to treat students as responsible adults who will "get all the passive shit done at home." I wish we could. Otherwise the good students are being penalized by the slow-down necessitated by the chuckleheads.

Re:Watch lectures at home, do homework in class? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578528)

Then make their grade depend on it. I've never been one to actually do readings or 'passive' stuff outside of class. I would just wait for the professor to lecture about it and maybe skim them before exams (please note I have a 3.93 GPA). This has always been how I've done things... Until I took a history class with a certain professor. He assigned readings to be done outside of class, during class all we did was discuss and analyze the readings. Our grade was roughly 50% discussion based, 50% term paper. If you didn't do the reading, you couldn't discuss, then you'd fail the class.

I am a technology major but I've never gotten more from a class or put more thought into a class than these history courses, I am now in my third with this professor. These are also the hardest classes I've taken in my 4 years in college.

Great idea if you don't care about students! (5, Interesting)

eepok (545733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577852)

Look-- the vast majority of students learn because they have no choice. Slashdoters that say "public education only held me back as a child" and "I learned more outside of the classroom" are not the norm. The normal person "accidentally" gets caught up with friends, watching movies, and trolling Facebook instead of watching these lecture videos. Those normal people then fail (or worse, cheat).

Too bad for them? No... because if they end up being useless, YOU will feel the consequences. Be it in skilled labor shortages, increase poverty/crime rates, dumbed down video classes to make up for the poor previous education of your cohort, or the removal of funding due to the low passing scores, YOU WILL FEEL THEIR FAILURE.

Real education isn't a plug-and-play option. It's work. Teachers need to work in the classroom and do their best to make sure the students learn as much as possible. It's adaptive, changing, and sometimes will digress to related, but more entertaining, topics to keep long-term interest. These things cannot be done by video.

Get it through your heads. The education of the masses must be done in person by skilled individuals. Preferably in smaller groups.

Qualifier: Distance/video learning can help to enlighten. It can even help to educate people who genuinely want to learn (typically, this works better with adults). Just please understand that kids 4-25 are crap learners on their own. They NEED others to help them learn or else they just won't bother.

Re:Great idea if you don't care about students! (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578170)

But what we can do is dramatically change the providers and costs of education.

With technology, there is almost no reason teachers should be doing their own lesson plans... I've been a teacher. Do people really think every grade 9 Math class is custom tailored? Trust me... it's not. There's a lot of bullcrap to make it seem like they're doing that work. But in the classroom, it's not like that.

The material/tests/activities... are pretty generic.
As a result, you really don't need very 'skilled' people in general public education. What you really need are teachers with reasonable/good class control. A different kind of skill yes... but not one that is often talked about.

In my experience, some of the best teachers in terms of class control and encouragement were some of the least educated. Many others came from other background other than teaching. Probably the two best teachers I saw had came from outside teaching. One was an ex autoworker and the other an ex finance person.

As a result of that, you can dramatically lower the cost of education and improve the quality. I agree that small groups are very important. What does that really mean.

Rather than pay 1 teacher 90k, you can pay 2 teachers 45K and split the class in two. Given that they really don't need advanced degrees to build lesson plans as they're premade... this makes sense. And for some children, the ones who care about them the most (parents) could provide the structure needed.

Great rant with no basis in fact! (4, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578434)

Children are voracious learners. Given the chance, they will learn anything and everything they can get their hands on. If you don't disabuse them of the practice, they will carry it on into adulthood.

As homeschool parents know, give the child access to materials - the internet, a CD of dinosaur books, an electronics experimenter's kit - and they will happily figure it out at their own pace, on their own schedule, and in a sequence that makes sense to them.

Forcing kids to learn your subjects at your pace by forcing them to sit still and quiet while you drone on is hard work, and it only teaches one thing: learning is not fun.

For example: How many English classes require students to write book reports, on works which are considered "classic" but not really relevant or interesting? This only makes an association between reading and hard work. It's rare to see an adult who likes to read for enjoyment after a highschools' worth of treatment this way.

I see this all the time in adults. The vast majority think of any type of learning as "tough", "boring", and "not worth the effort". They won't try anything new unless it's forced on them by life circumstances. They have lost the joy of learning.

Learning new things is an evolutionary survival trait, yet we spend 13+ years of a kids life teaching them not to enjoy it.

The standard teaching approach by lecturing has been in use for over 2000 years. Do you suppose that maybe there are more effective ways? Perhaps by experimenting or using our new technology we can raise our adult productivity.

Some professor is experimenting with different methods. I applaud his attempts and eagerly await the results.

Re:Great rant with no basis in fact! (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578694)

Whatever works is great. No where do I say the premade stuff should just be lectures. It also includes activities and games and experiments...

But what technology allows is for any new lecture, experiment, activity to be quickly used by almost anyone on the planet.

Suffice to say I don't subscribe to the idea that children are capable of making their own decisions. The older they get, the more choice they should have of course.

I do think most things are taught... some will use the term 'indoctrinated'... I call it culture and I use that in a very broad way.

Learning is a great trait built into us... but so are many traits. The trait to be lazy, sexual, dominant, abusive, exploitative, enjoy life...

It's great that there are many kids who take their built in desire to learn and run with it. Many unfortunately partake of the other things. Both as a matter of genetics and/or their upbringing.

Many kids need to be taught things for their own good.

Re:Great idea if you don't care about students! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578188)

Look-- the vast majority of students learn because they have no choice. Slashdoters that say "public education only held me back as a child" and "I learned more outside of the classroom" are not the norm. The normal person "accidentally" gets caught up with friends, watching movies, and trolling Facebook instead of watching these lecture videos. Those normal people then fail (or worse, cheat).

Too bad for them? No... because if they end up being useless, YOU will feel the consequences. Be it in skilled labor shortages, increase poverty/crime rates, dumbed down video classes to make up for the poor previous education of your cohort, or the removal of funding due to the low passing scores, YOU WILL FEEL THEIR FAILURE.

Real education isn't a plug-and-play option. It's work. Teachers need to work in the classroom and do their best to make sure the students learn as much as possible. It's adaptive, changing, and sometimes will digress to related, but more entertaining, topics to keep long-term interest. These things cannot be done by video.

Get it through your heads. The education of the masses must be done in person by skilled individuals. Preferably in smaller groups.

Qualifier: Distance/video learning can help to enlighten. It can even help to educate people who genuinely want to learn (typically, this works better with adults). Just please understand that kids 4-25 are crap learners on their own. They NEED others to help them learn or else they just won't bother.


Check these kids out. They might change your ASSumption.

Re:Great idea if you don't care about students! (1)

Questy (209818) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579116)

>Distance/video learning can help to enlighten. It can even help to educate people who genuinely want to learn (typically, this works better with adults).
I have to agree here. I'm in a distance-learning theology coursework, and I'm doing 10X the work I ever did while I was in college, and learning and retaining more.

Re:Great idea if you don't care about students! (2)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579546)

You seem to be thinking that the method they're talking about involves replacing live lectures with canned videos of lectures. I can see how you might get that impression from the slashdot summary, but the actual article does a significantly better job of explaining what it's about. It's about replacing traditional lectures, where students sit passively and take notes, with classes where the students interact with each other and/or with the professor.


The teaching method described in the article isn't new (it dates back to 1996), and the empirical evidence [mit.edu] is that it succeeds, whereas traditional lecturing fails.

Academics doesn't deserve live performances? (4, Interesting)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38577864)

"With modern technology, if all there is is music, we don't need musicians to do it. ... Get 'em to do it once, put it on the Web, and fire the musicians."

Careful where you go with that line of thinking. And if anyone says, "there's a difference between a physics lecture, and something creative like music," I would respond that you've never had a good physics teacher. Physics is very creative, once you start getting into the upper levels.

Eric Mazur gave a talk here at the University of Waterloo, and his talk was not about getting rid of lectures, per se. That's something the NPR reporter seems to assume, to the point where (s)he inserted soundbytes from an entirely different physics prof. Mazur's focus is about making the classtime much more interactive, to give students feedback about whether or not they really grasp the concepts. Again, it's about guided creativity. And no, you can't get rid of the professor in that situation.

(Yes, I was a physics major.)

Mazur is a great prof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578004)

Having taken E&M with him nearly 20 years ago, I can attest that Mazur was one of the best teachers I encountered at Harvard. I have great confidence in the direction he is taking education. For us the response mechanism was some wired hp calculators that would fry when they rolled out the Van de Graff generator. I can only imagine what he is accomplishing today.

agree and disagree (3, Interesting)

rish87 (2460742) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578008)

Personally I hated a lot of "alternative" teaching methods some of my professors tried during my undegrad years. Small "group work" was the most painful, useless time wasting exercise in my academic life. These "peer learning sessions" usually consisted of the smart students doing everything while the dumb or just slower kids sat there. It was times like these when I wondered why I was paying $20k a year to teach myself and have useless students piggyback off my grades.

That being said, I had a lot of equally frustrating classes where the professor did the exact opposite and taught in the classical face-to-blackboard lecture style. I would sit there frantically copying notes for an hour and realize I had no idea what I just listened to, again wondering why I was paying $20k a year to read condensed notes taken directly from a textbook.

The best classes, however, were a mix of these techniques. One class would dedicate about 1/2 to 3/4 of each lecture to slow, explanatory and engaging lecture with the rest of the time being dedicated to class-wide example problem solving. Another class would dedicate an entire lecture or two each week to solving a number of representative problems from the homework as a class, introducing or reinforcing the thought processes needed to go about learning HOW to solve the problems. These professors took the time to engage the students and walk them through the problem solving, not just quickly write down decades old lecture notes with their backs to the students.

Why even record your own faculty? (1, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578016)

Just buy in someone else's video, spend the savings on better dorm rooms for the Chinese and Korean students who are funding your Dean's yacht. It's not like he really cares whether they learn anything, as long as they (or superficially similar professional exam-sitters) get good passes and keep the school's 'reputation' up.

Try small, private universities for undergrad... (3, Interesting)

ravenscar (1662985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578058)

I attended a small, private university and most of my 3rd and 4th year courses had 7-9 students + the professor. Many of those classes were structured into 3 hour blocks. It was great. There was plenty of time to explore topics together, and in a way that resulted in everyone gaining a fairly thorough understanding of the material.

That school couldn't provide the kind of resources necessary for grad work, but it was great for undergrad.

I always wanted them to get rid of discussion (4, Interesting)

afabbro (33948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578114)

Discussion sections were the biggest waste of time in college. Get 20 undergrads and one grad student in a room to "discuss". I was a history major and every class had the same two or three hours a week devoted to these tedious discussions.

I did not care what my fellow undergrads thought. I cared what the guy with the PhD thought. My fellow undergrads were spouting off their own ill-informed ideas (as was I, to get credit). Complete waste of time. We'd have been better served to spend those 8-10 hours a week reading.

fire the faculty? (2, Insightful)

cyfer2000 (548592) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578396)

I thought their are in universities to write research proposals and get money from public or private funding source like NSF, DOD, DOE, Green Peace, big oils... So the universities can cut a overhead (~40%) from those funding. Teaching and students are just pretentious facades.

Why Math Lectures Are Useless (4, Insightful)

Ben_R_R (1177533) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578508)

As a college senior, I've taken my share of lectures in various disciplines. One thing I've noticed with lectures, especially math lectures, is that when you are sitting there watching the professor walk you through the problem steps, it is very easy to overestimate your grasp of the subject. You follow all the lectures and do well on the homework, so you figure your good to go for the final. Then there comes the exam, and you find out all you really knew how to do was some textbook assisted string manipulation, and you are screwed on the questions that would be easy if you understood the intuition better. It's difficult to teach the intuition behind things to a room full of students, because each one will have a different "Ah-Ha!" conceptual explanation. For example Partial Differentiation. I got it when it was explained as a cross section of a higher dimensional shape. My friend, when working with gradients and vector fields in physics. (It boils down to the same thing, but it's the way you start to attack the problem that matters) There is no way to give a room full of students individual intuitions, so most professors default to proofs. (Which are probably intuitive enough for the professor anyway...) But since you can get the proofs from the book, there is not really a good reason to go to proof lectures, unless you like things read to you. (Which is probably helpful to some, but useless for me)

Re:Why Math Lectures Are Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38579104)

Especially when you get caught in an infinite loop. For example Partial Differentiation....

Inquiry-based learning: nothing new (1)

feranick (858651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578634)

It's nothing new. It has been around for years and it has been (correctly) advocated as a much better way to teach and learn over conventional lecturing.


I teach physics in a workshop, not lecture ... (4, Interesting)

StupendousMan (69768) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578670)

... and it's okay.

At RIT, we switched from the traditional lecture + lab approach to the "workshop" approach about six years ago. The students meet in a room with small tables and maximum class size of 42, three times a week for two hours each. The room has equipment at all the tables, so that students can quickly set up small experiments which may not take the entire 2-hour meeting.

I taught in the traditional manner for about seven years, and in this manner for an equal duration. Does the workshop have advantages? Sure: students are less likely to fall asleep because they are often working examples, and because they are in a small, well-lit room. I can walk around and talk to individual students for a minute or two at a time, so I can find those who are having problems and try to help them. It's easy to introduce a concept, give one simple example, then ask the students to do another example, within a span of 20 or 40 minutes. In some cases, this cycle of introduction - observation - action may help students to understand or remember the material.

But there are disadvantages, too: in a workshop, it's difficult to move away from the median student. I can't go too much faster or deeper, because it's clear that many students are not getting it; so some students are held back. I can't slow down for the slowest learners, either, because it becomes obvious that the majority of the class is bored. This approach is MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than the traditional one, because we need to offer 10 or 15 sections of the class each quarter; that means a lot more faculty time. The rooms can't be used for any other classes, and the AV requirements are pretty steep -- we need to spend around $10K just on projectors each year. We need more equipment than we would have in traditional labs, and that stuff isn't cheap.

It's not clear that this approach causes students to learn any better; some are helped, some are hurt. It's difficult to compare student achievement in workshops vs. lectures, because at the same time that workshops were introduced, we changed the content of our classes as well.

My summary, after years of experience: not a silver bullet, a lot more fun to teach, more expensive overall.

We don't need ... (1)

jackspenn (682188) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578714)

We don't need universities or schools anymore. I have learned more about historic European and Russian firearms (something I find iteresting) and Linux (something that helps me earn a living) from youtube videos and online blogs and meetups than I have from countless books and experts who have come out of academia.

Moore Method does this, at least in Mathematics... (1)

nonsensical (1237544) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578824)

The Moore Method is an effective way to make students think. The class meets regularly, the students each must have some proofs they've done at home which they must present to the class instead of the professor lecturing, they instead, along with other students critique the presenter on their proofs, pointing out flaws and holes. Further students must compete with each other to present enough proofs to pass the class, and each proof can only be done once.

Outside reading is discouraged, and the class is selected based on having the right experience in the subject (not too much, and not too little) to ensure fairness.

The result is a grueling, yet often very interesting class, as every problem that a student presents, you've probably already worked on and as such have intimate knowledge of the problem which leads to further understanding and new insights.

This story is about Learner Centered Environments (1)

stewardwildcat (1009811) | more than 2 years ago | (#38578842)

I am a graduate student in Astronomy and part of my dissertation is studying these active engagement techniques. It seems that many people on here are quick to jump the gun and give an opinion before understanding why we say the lecture doesn't matter anymore. Teachers in the workshops I help with also get confused as to what these words mean.

People learn in a variety of different ways yet lecture is the most common form of material dissemination. This is wonderful for the people who can soak in all of the information and draw conclusions themselves. This leaves many people behind if all they have time for is writing down facts and attempting to keep up with the basic material. Since most courses in high school and college no longer require intense critical thinking, a quick memorization of facts will allow most students to succeed and think they "KNOW" material. When asked to apply it many are unable to. Interactive engagement techniques do not require the removal of lecture from the learning process they just put less emphasis on it. Lecture is the ONLY way to present enough material in a college course and is critical to the active engagement techniques. Students must be given the basic knowledge before they can be left to begin their own critical thinking process.

We know from research that people learn by linking new concepts to concepts they already have a model for. Most of these models are incorrect when it comes to astronomical and physical phenomena. A student who has misconceptions may still think they understand the material and be able to respond correctly to some questions. However, when a question specifically calls out a known misconception, the model the student is using to reason through the question will lead them to the incorrect answer every time. What active engagement techniques employ is social conversation. Lecture tutorials are one form of this learner centered engagement. Students are given a 20 minute lecture on a topic such as the seasons. Then they spend 20 minutes with a partner working through a socratic dialog (in their lecture tutorial workbook made up of research validated questions and "fake" student responses). The pair works on coming to consensus and discussing the reasons for their answers on each question. As the students work through the dialog the concepts become more challenging and the misconceptions are challenged. Often students are required to look back at previous answers (known to be commonly incorrect) after some misconceptions have been challenged. Students are engaged in their own meta-cognition and are forced to confront their own and others ideas. This active form of discussing and defending your ideas allows for misconceptions to be overcome and new concepts to be better rooted in the brain.

For those of you who think this is useless. We performed a study of lecture tutorials in our classes. We split the classes into the top 50% of students and the bottom 50% of students. Before lecture the top students are scoring 50% on concepts not yet covered, those at the bottom are near 10%. After lecture BOTH groups are around 50-55%. This means lecture is helping students catch up with the basic information they may not have had. However lecture only got the class to FAILING! After a lecture tutorial in class, both groups are now performing at the 70% level. TWO WHOLE LETTER GRADES BETTER!!! This is why we say lecture is not the important part of the course because the student engagement is helping everyone.

So if lecture is only a means of giving out the information then there is not a critical need for professors to stand in front of the classroom at this time. We can hire actors which are far better at the job of dictating and making material exciting and record it. The professors job becomes important later when students have questions not for being the talking head.

Re:This story is about Learner Centered Environmen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38579280)

That is certainly the way to do it. Reminds me of the work of Dr. Ed Prather........ GO WILDCATS! ...lol

Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38578872)

"Get 'em to do it once, put it on the Web, and fire the faculty."

Yeah, right! He does not seem to realize that most professors spend the large majority of their time doing research (or rather writing proposals to get grants to fund grad students/postdoc and a large part of the university budget through ridiculous overheads). At research universities professors with active research programs generally teach 1 course/semester. But even then, there are office hours when students have questions. Can it be replaced by the web? Certainly not. What if students have questions during the course? Well, the web fails again. And what if the undergrad is interested in getting some research experience? Well, no faculty, no research.

I use teaching methods similar to Mazur's. (5, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579200)

The slashot summary isn't terribly accurate, and even if you violate the social norms of /. and click through to read the article, the article is pretty sketchy as well. We're already getting comments from people who think this is about substituting video lectures for live lectures, and that's totally inaccurate.

This method is not new. I teach physics at a community college (not at Hahvahd like Mazur, alas), and I've been using methods similar to his for about 15 years. I learned about them from Mazur's book [amazon.com], which was published in 1996.

It's also not just some guy's opinion about how to teach. It's solidly backed up by research.

Let's start from the evidence. There is very strong evidence [mit.edu] that lecturing is a terrible way to teach physics. The classic studies work like this. You give students a multiple-choice test at the beginning of the semester on very simple, basic concepts of physics. What hits the ground first, a larger rock or a smaller rock? What forces act on a book that's lying on a table? They do badly, but you expect that, because most of them haven't had high school physics. Then you teach a semester's worth of physics to them and give them the test again to measure how much they've improved. The usual statistic used to measure their improvement is the gain, G, defined as G=(final score-initial score)/(100%-initial score). In other words, if they haven't improved at all, G=0, and if they've improved as much as it was possible for them to improve, G=1. With classes that use traditional lecturing -- even by experienced, award-winning teachers who get glowing reviews from their students, are enthusiastic, and put a great deal of effort into their lectures -- you get about G=0.25. In other words, the students have developed very little conceptual understanding beyond what they came in with. On the other hand, if you use interactive teaching techniques that force students to participate actively and talk about concepts, you can usually get much higher G's.

The evidence is that it doesn't really matter very much what specific interactive technique you use, as long as it's interactive and deals with concepts. Mazur pioneered a technique called peer instruction [harvard.edu]. Just to be concrete, I'll describe his specific technique. You require the students to read the book *before* they come to class. You enforce this with reading quizzes given when they walk into lecture. The class consists basically of a bunch of multiple-choice conceptual questions. You pop up one of the questions on the screen and ask students to show you their initial opinion about which answer is right. This can be done with expensive electornic "clickers" or with cheap pieces of cardboard marked A, B, C, and D. If you see that almost everyone got it right, you briefly confirm that, and then move on. If they didn't, you have them break up into small groups and discuss the question. You walk around and listen a lot without saying much. Then you have them vote again again. The theory is that the right answer is supposed to win out over the wrong answers in the discussion. When it's time to give a test, you make sure that the test includes some purely conceptual questions, because otherwise students will tend to resist dropping the "plug and chug" approach they're used to and switching to focusing on concepts.

Mazur's book shows data where he got G~0.5 with this method. Nobody has ever gotten a G that high with traditional lecturing. Over the years since 1996, many of us who use interactive techniques have refined what we do, and it's not uncommon to significantly higher G's. The average for three of us who teach freshman calc-based physics at my school last semester was 0.7.

A common concern is that if the teacher doesn't work problems on the board during class, students' problem-solving skills will suffer. The evidence is that this is not the case. What actually tends to happen is that you get vastly better conceptual understanding without any reduction in problem-solving ability.

Many professors have also traditionally assumed that because their students could solve problems, they must understand the concepts. That's not the case. The classic result, which I've verified with my own classes, is like this. You test students on concepts and on problem-solving. Then you make a scatter plot, with conceptual understanding on the x axis and problem-solving on the y. The result is that the dots tend to sort of fill in the region above the main diagonal. In other words, many, many students are able to achieve a fairly high level of success on stereotyped mathematical textbook problems without understanding the meaning of a damn thing they're doing. The more you switch from lecturing to interactive methods, the closer the scatter plot comes to lying along the diagonal. Mazur shows some data like this in his book, and I've seen exactly the same thing happen in my classes.

Does all of this apply to other fields besides physics? I don't know.

Importance of reading and testing w/ theory (4, Interesting)

erikwestlund (1003368) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579260)

They note the importance of reading before the class in the article but don't follow up much on that. This is crucial.

This problem presents itself when teaching interactively: If students don't prepare ahead of time, the lesson totally stalls. Then they are trying to figure out problems with no basis for it. What happens? The professor often ends up lecturing. Then no time is left.

My intuition (based upon TAing Statistics as a PhD student and being a high school teacher of history, philosophy, and information technology) is that very few students read before lecture. I often didn't as an undergrad. Why? Because as long as the lectures re-tread text material, student can get away with using the text only as a reference, not as a primarily source of information. If students are required to be active participants, they HAVE to read ahead of time. Otherwise they have no way of actually figuring out how to use the knowledge from the reading.

I agree with the poster who mentioned the importance of assessing theoretically. A lot of students think that theoretical assessment is easy -- they don't have to remember a lot and can just use their brain to figure out the test. At least in the Stats class I helped teach, this simply wasn't true. Whenever we had problems sets or exam problems which were more or less plug and chug, the students did GREAT. However, when we started asking theoretical questions (which statistical test is appropriate here? Why? How do you test assumptions...? Critique this statistically informed research piece.), students really struggled -- which means they don't get it. That tells me they weren't really ready to use statistics.

I bet this could have been alleviated significantly if we had spent more time in class really working through problems which asked tough theoretical questions in groups as a class. But alas, we lectured, then I had 50 minutes weekly to try to answer their questions -- never enough -- and the quality of work struggled. Many students never really seemed ready to work independently with the concepts: I think a big reason for this is they were taught by being talked at... so when it was time to show they knew stats, the brightest did fine but the majority freaked out.

Labs for the win (1)

Moof123 (1292134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38579486)

I cautiously agree to reducing lectures. I found that in getting my BSEE I learned much more doing hands on labs in small groups than I did in the lectures for the class. Further, what I learned in labs and doing student jobs on various programs stuck much better than the lecture material, and cemented the lecture material better.

Sadly, lab are less and less hands on these days, and most new engineering grads have never held a soldering iron and had pathetically little hands on lab work. I would argue that having good well funded labs is more important than changing the style of lectures.

Lab reports, at least the ones I did, were also overrated. Shorter reports, and few of them would be preferred if it allowed more hands on lab work.

reverse the process... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38579594)

there's a school system that has the lectures watched at home, and then time with the teacher is reserved for problem-solving, discussion, and the like - the traditional matter of homework. makes much more sense (and is similar to classes with 'reading assignments' and then in-class work).

the lecturer does not need to be present for people to see and hear the lecture.

to answer questions, and explore the problem area, yes.

what you lose is the ability to interrupt, ask questions along the way; if you never could do that, you lost almost nothing.

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