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Lectures Aren't Just Boring, They're Ineffective, Too, Study Finds

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the stop-talking dept.

Education 166

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Are your lectures droning on? Change it up every 10 minutes with more active teaching techniques and more students will succeed, researchers say. A new study finds that undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods."

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I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46983967)

But studies have been finding this for the past two decades.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (1)

jc42 (318812) | about 4 months ago | (#46984073)

But studies have been finding this for the past two decades.

I once heard it summarized as: The classroom lecture approach is the best method yet discovered for teaching people who can't read.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984147)

So is that to say it's also the best method yet discovered *to* teach people to read?

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984255)

More it's a symptom of the ADD generation and startlingly shrinking attention spans...

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985325)

Except there is research going back before this generation, and evidence of such things going a lot further back. In addition to some of the basic ideas behind making teaching more effective, a lot of research also finds that a big hindrance consists of teachers and professors set in their way, that they insist things are done a way because they always have been and won't listen to possible changes. When you find someone who says their teaching has been fine, it is the students who aren't, then you should be getting concerned. Not that students don't don't change over time.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (5, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#46984273)

It's a method for transferring words from the prof's page to the student's without passing through the brain of either.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 months ago | (#46984401)

It used to be. Now, however, students don't take notes and expects handouts, and so that transfer can be made much more efficient by bypassing the lecture entirely and just letting them collect the handouts...

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (2)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 4 months ago | (#46984655)

for ultimate efficiency we should just let students pay for the diploma directly, bypassing this archaic system of 'grades, 'studying' and worst of all 'effort'. In the end it's all useless, and only used for gaming interviewers and HR 'professionals'.

for-profit universities are of course approaching this ideal, but a lingering attachment to ~800 years of university level education are still holding them back :(

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984867)

It used to be. Now, however, students don't take notes and expects handouts, and so that transfer can be made much more efficient by bypassing the lecture entirely and just letting them collect the handouts...

Handouts don't work. They aren't a substitute for lectures, nor do they adequately convey "knowledge". Nor does it have anything to do with ADD or short attention spans. Cognitive psych studies have shown that the average brain begins to wander after about 10-12 minutes of being lectured at, so that's the maximum amount of time one should ever lecture without a break. We've known this at least since the 1980s. Active learning has been shown to work for several decades now. This study quantifies the difference it makes. It is a shame that (a) most colleges don't teach graduate students and faculty effective teaching methods, and (b) its been decades and there's still way too much lecturing going on in college classes.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985655)

It is a shame that (a) most colleges don't teach graduate students and faculty effective teaching methods, and (b) its been decades and there's still way too much lecturing going on in college classes.

And, I would say that there is a trend to making this worse. It used to be that a student would get three to four lectures per week in a subject, spread out over as many days. Each of these lectures was about 50 minutes long. Now, most courses are taught with two lectures per week, each about one and a half hours long; I am certain that this is being done in the name of efficiency and "cost cutting". But, as you point out, most students have had their attention wander after 10-12 minutes. Given this, it should be no surprise that much of the class has mentally disengaged from the lecture long before the professor has reached the end of the day's lesson. Is it really any wonder that students come through to the end of the semester having retained almost nothing of the material? Of course, active learning works better but it requires some motrivation on the part of the student. As for the teaching methods of graduate student and faculty, nothing will change there until they are rewarded for putting in the effort to teach effectively. For them the mantra is "publish or perish". That needs to change too.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (3, Informative)

TopherC (412335) | about 4 months ago | (#46984197)

But studies have been finding this for the past two decades.

My thoughts exactly. This is apparently a new study, however. It's not clear to me what is new about it other than, perhaps, translating the results into letter-grade equivalents. I like the quote: "it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data."

And yet, as you point out, this kind of data has been around for decades at least. I think they knew in the 80's if not earlier that knowledge retention is terrible for students listening to lectures compared to other methods (reading, group activities, teaching, etc). But how many professors took that data to heart? Is it a matter of couching it in different terms like letter grades? Probably not because those professors who lecture today either don't know or don't care. In either case they are immune to new studies like this.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (4, Interesting)

Kjella (173770) | about 4 months ago | (#46984611)

Most lectures I've been to were lectures because it's practically one of the very few ways one professor can address hundreds of people, of course with smaller groups you could do more but then you need lots of assistants and there are study groups that are essentially students learning on their own. Their main purpose is because having regularly scheduled events drags the undisciplined through the curriculum and because socially it doesn't feel like you've been stuck with your nose in a book all day. Personally I felt the most productive way was just crunching through the book until it made sense, but I think that's very individual.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (1)

tamyrlin (51) | about 4 months ago | (#46985157)

The article (available at http://www.pnas.org/content/ea... [pnas.org] ) is a meta-analysis of earlier studies. So this study can be seen as a validation of the earlier research rather than presenting something completely novel.

(One possible reason why lectures are still so common: It is a cheap teaching method that scales well with class size.)

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (1)

matbury (3458347) | about 4 months ago | (#46985361)

Yes, professional teachers have known this for decades going back further than the scope of this study (go back to John Dewey or Plato if you like), and most professional teachers typically don't just lecture, they include a whole range of learning activities to facilitate learning. The problem is, there aren't that many professional teachers in universities. Universities hire professional researchers who do teaching on the side. Want a job? Want tenure? See how far being a good teacher gets you. It's more of a bonus than a requirement. Not surprisingly, university teaching staff tend to reflect these values.

Re:I've heard slashdot is behind the times... (1)

Panoptes (1041206) | about 4 months ago | (#46984481)

At one level, it's true (and long proven) that lectures have pedagogical limitations. But step back for a moment, and consider the lecture as a social event. It's the only time the course students gather en masse and actually see everyone else. It's a contact event - you meet old friends, make new ones, catch the mood of the group, swap study information, grouch about things. Take away the much-maligned lecture, and the college experience would be much the poorer.

Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (5, Interesting)

uCallHimDrJ0NES (2546640) | about 4 months ago | (#46983999)

...are 1.5 times harder than topics that can be easily turned in to fun activities and games. Voila!

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (-1, Troll)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 4 months ago | (#46984211)

...are 1.5 times harder than topics that can be easily turned in to fun activities and games. Voila!

IMO, if it's not something that you can "turn into" a practical application, it's probably not something I want to waste my time "learning."

I will offer the caveat of things like theoretical physics, which have no useful application (useful as in, "can do real world stuff with," not "something that further enhances our understanding of things").

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984285)

it's probably not something I want to waste my time "learning."

Perhaps the world doesn't revolve around you.

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984641)

I will offer the caveat of things like theoretical physics, which have no useful application

As the saying goes, the things you don't know can and in fact do fill quite a few libraries. Lucky for you some other people who do not share your wisdom build all the nice things you use to post inane things on the intarwebs.

Atleast you didn't go the whole distance and offered Mathematics as something with 'no useful application'

Re: Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985117)

And concept that is disembodied from a real world, immediate context is difficult to learn.

That's precisely what makes college difficult. It distills thousands of years of experience into a handful of years. It takes effort and ambition.

If you want to learn the "traditional way" buy a one-way ticket to the Amazon and enjoy your new-age, hands on learning. Just don't expect to learn anything useful for advancing our modern high-tech world.

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (5, Insightful)

khchung (462899) | about 4 months ago | (#46985631)

I will offer the caveat of things like theoretical physics, which have no useful application

I will offer this quote from Particle Fever by Kaplan: "When radio waves were discovered, they weren't called radio waves, because there was no radio at that time."

When the electron was discovered, it was called "the most useless particle".

Quantum Mechanics give the basis of building up semiconductors.

Yeah, right, no useful application.

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (2)

eldridgea (1249582) | about 4 months ago | (#46984229)

The study covered STEM topics, which are typically considered the "harder" topics. Also, the article wasn't saying fun and games, it was saying that "interactive" methods were more effective. Methods such as "[C]alling on individuals or groups randomly, or having students clarify concepts to each other and reach a consensus on an issue."

So basically doing continual daily checkups to make sure your students are grasping the material instead of an exam every few weeks will keep the teacher more in tune with where his students are. Which will presumably help the teacher pace his lessons to match the capabilities of the students. That way the professor doe not succumb to the "Curse of the Gifted," i.e. they understand their topic so well they are unable to understand the pace or abilities of a novice.

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984711)

Well, not all STEM is equal in difficulty (some non-STEM is more difficult than some STEM), and in some ways if the study only focused on STEM that might be a significant limitation.

Anyway, I can't get to the actual article, so maybe there are lots of flaws with it, but...

I'd prefer to have active learning formats for my classes, but it isn't always possible due to various reasons, from the size of the course to the material being offered. One thing I've had to adjust to as I've taught more and more over the years is that more advanced students don't always want active learning, especially on certain difficult topics. What they generally say is some variant of "I don't know what I'm doing, and I'm not sure I'm understanding other course material, and you do and have lots of experience, so I want you to explain it." This is with really bright, conscientious, engaged students where I get top teaching ratings.

My point is just that sometimes students want you to explain something, and pushing them to engage in active learning stuff can be misguided and backfire.

I think the push for active learning is great, but I worry a bit that the pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction at the moment.

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 4 months ago | (#46984365)

When I was in high school anatomy class and we were learning all about the different cell types, our teacher associated them all with some kind of candy. Squamous cells became necco wafers. Fat cells were marshmallows. Striated muscles were Twizzlers. She even had us build models of DNA with different colored gum drops and tooth picks.

About the only time we stopped having a food related lesson was when we were dissecting cats, which was its own special kind of active learning *shudder*

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (2)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 4 months ago | (#46984673)

the lesson going over diabetes must have been both ironic, and hilarious :)

Study finds that uninterested teachers... (1)

penguinoid (724646) | about 4 months ago | (#46984949)

Study finds that uninterested teachers are more likely to both give only lectures and more likely to have students fail.

Anecdotal evidence suggests... (2)

tamyrlin (51) | about 4 months ago | (#46985093)

... that it is easier to take cheap shots at research if you only read the slashdot summary rather than the actual publication.

So to answer your concerns I tracked down the publication in PNAS: http://www.pnas.org/content/ea... [pnas.org]

To quote from the article:

The data we analyzed came from two types of studies: (i) randomized trials, where each student was randomly placed in a treatment; and (ii) quasirandom designs where students self-sorted into classes, blind to the treatment at the time of registering for the class

In other words, if I understand the article correctly, the authors only considered studies where active learning was contrasted with traditional lectures in the same course! Therefore it seems likely that active learning is a good idea, regardless of whether the topic is hard or easy. (By the way, active learning doesn't necessarily have to involve fun and games, although if a student, in general, doesn't think that learning is fun, perhaps he or she should consider doing something else...)

Re:Study finds that topics requiring lecture... (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 4 months ago | (#46985813)

...are 1.5 times harder than topics that can be easily turned in to fun activities and games. Voila!

No topic requires lectures. Books and recordings take care of passively absorbed - or, as this study shows, wasted - infodumps just fine. Lectures are simply a leftover from the time they weren't available.

study finds dumbasses who can't pay attention... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984033)

are more likely to fail. so let us design our college curriculum around the retards who drink a 32 ounce mt. dew before class and can't shut off their phone less they miss a tweet. that will punish the people who actually can pay attention and maybe even enjoy the lecture for being smart. the ultimate policy would be that if a frat boy is bored he's allowed to punch a nerd in the arm. that will teach those fucking nerds to pay attention!

Re:study finds dumbasses who can't pay attention.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984087)

+2 Informative

Re:study finds dumbasses who can't pay attention.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984155)

are more likely to fail. so let us design our college curriculum around the retards who drink a 32 ounce mt. dew before class and can't shut off their phone less they miss a tweet. that will punish the people who actually can pay attention and maybe even enjoy the lecture for being smart. the ultimate policy would be that if a frat boy is bored he's allowed to punch a nerd in the arm. that will teach those fucking nerds to pay attention!

As a frat boy who has a CS degree I find this accurate. It's obviously why I picked CS because it had the highest frustration and nerd saturation. This resulted in more frustration but an easier time coping than any other major. Also that's not Mt. Dew it's Nati Lite! True story bro.

Re:study finds dumbasses who can't pay attention.. (2)

Jerslan (1088525) | about 4 months ago | (#46984201)

As one of those "nerds" I still had issues with Lecture classes. My university combined Lecture with Recitation sections so that you could get a combo of learning styles (ie: Lecture MWF, Recitation TTh). Lecture's often put me to sleep, and when they didn't it was because the teacher would randomly go off on amusing tangents about the differing smells of white board markers or installing a new screen door the previous weekend. Recitation covered things like going over the homework and such, had smaller class sizes (taught by a TA instead of the professor), and helping people struggling with material.

It wasn't a perfect system, but it worked well enough. Some classes you just can't avoid the large lecture hall (like Engineering Physics or Calculus).

Re:study finds dumbasses who can't pay attention.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984347)

Heaven forbid there are teachers out there who think they haven't achieved perfection and still strive to improve their effectiveness at knowledge transfer. At the university level, students must work hard to learn complex material and instructors equally hard to present it in the most effective manner. There are many examples of excellent students who don't even need a teacher and excellent instructors who could teach a third grader astrophysics, but in general there's a lot of room for improvement from both sides.

Re:study finds dumbasses who can't pay attention.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984435)

Yeah, right? I mean, if you want kids to know something you just tell it to them and then if they don't know it it's their own damn fault. Really what are lecturers anyway but hacks who couldn't write their own books? Just put the textbook through a text-to-speach converter and play it for the lecture hall. Then you'll really separate out the bright kids (literally, the bright ones will just leave).

Re:study finds dumbasses who can't pay attention.. (1)

v8xi (3650789) | about 4 months ago | (#46984511)

You lost me at "dumbasses who can't pay attention," because, if you find a topic boring, you must be a dumbass.

Never lecture when you can have a seminar (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#46984037)

Seminars are better because the audience is supposed to ask questions and are regarded as peers, whereas lectures are by those at a higher level to those at a lower level.

Plus, cookies!

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (4, Insightful)

aj50 (789101) | about 4 months ago | (#46984077)

...but I liked lectures...

Learning from someone who knows their subject much better than I do who has taken the time to condense a part of their knowledge into a well structured lecture is the thing I miss most when comparing university to work.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (2)

Rhywden (1940872) | about 4 months ago | (#46984209)

That's nice and all, but you still have a hard-wired limit to your attention span.

It's pretty much standard in teachers' education (at least in Germany) that you have to "switch gears" from time to time or you may as well rhapsodize about the colour blue - nobody will be really listening after a while.

It doesn't mean that lectures don't work. It just means that only doing lectures is not as effective.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984327)

It's pretty much standard in teachers' education (at least in Germany) that you have to "switch gears" from time to time or you may as well rhapsodize about the colour blue

That is somewhat ironic, considering the famous Klein Blue painting is shown in the modern art museum in Köln.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (2)

khchung (462899) | about 4 months ago | (#46985679)

...but I liked lectures...

Learning from someone who knows their subject much better than I do who has taken the time to condense a part of their knowledge into a well structured lecture is the thing I miss most when comparing university to work.

Agreed. This difference is almost like the difference between people who read, and those who don't.

People who don't read will tell you how much more effective a movie can tell a story, blah, blah, compared to books. Books are boring. They can't stay focused on boring text. etc. etc.

People who read find books interesting and enjoy good reading.

If you do a study on the "effectiveness", by whatever measure, of books vs movie, the result will be skewed by those who don't read.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (1)

hutsell (1228828) | about 4 months ago | (#46984231)

Seminars are better because the audience is supposed to ask questions and are regarded as peers, whereas lectures are by those at a higher level to those at a lower level.

Plus, cookies!

Questions turn presentations into a living hell. Regardless of the quality of the speaker, improperly handling of the constant interruptions makes the event useless. Proper handling, which rarely happens, is a skill that will endear any audience. It's only because of the free cookies, that allows me to let it slide — I'll bite my tongue and think to myself: It's all good.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#46984395)

Questions turn presentations into a living hell. Regardless of the quality of the speaker, improperly handling of the constant interruptions makes the event useless. Proper handling, which rarely happens, is a skill that will endear any audience. It's only because of the free cookies, that allows me to let it slide — I'll bite my tongue and think to myself: It's all good.

This is why questions are at the end or at a designated point, so that they don't throw things off gear.

Mmmmm cookies.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984321)

>Seminars are better because the audience is supposed to ask questions and are regarded as peers, whereas lectures are by those at a higher level to those at a lower level.

But the seminar presenter isn't your peer either, and is at a higher level than the students. It just feels more group-huggy.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about 4 months ago | (#46984411)

>Seminars are better because the audience is supposed to ask questions and are regarded as peers, whereas lectures are by those at a higher level to those at a lower level.

But the seminar presenter isn't your peer either, and is at a higher level than the students. It just feels more group-huggy.

Maybe where you are, but most of our seminars are fairly distributed with peers, a few above, and a few below. Maybe that's just for advanced research institutions where most people have PhDs or are about to get one, and most seminars are a mix of visiting fellows and locals.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (1)

SirSlud (67381) | about 4 months ago | (#46984441)

Ugh. The only thing worse than lectures are questions from the audience. Well, actually, I have no problems with questions per se, but anybody who interrupts with a question that is going to be answered within the hour as part of the material, or asks a question that was already answered should be subject to some kind of punishment.

Re:Never lecture when you can have a seminar (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 4 months ago | (#46984731)

It was always the "i'm going to ask questions to make myself appear engaged and intelligent" crowd who drew my ire in school. (they typically would strike with the inane questions right as the prof was about to wrap up for the day, possibly when letting class out early)

As a university (BSc degree) teacher... (1)

gwolf (26339) | about 4 months ago | (#46985833)

I cannot tell you how much I thank questions. All of them, even the dumbest.

I do try to be very clear and dynamic, but some topics... are just hard to grasp, or I have not found the proper way to teach them... But in some subjects, most students won't even realize they are not getting what I teach. There are a few students who are burnt with questions, and cannot stand on a point they don't understand. Some students insist on their questions even if they are sometimes just too easy.

I thank them. And I try to explain, over and over, from different angles. That's what brings back the attention of the rest of the class, and the different angles are in the end good for all of them.

Not a way to learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984071)

I have completed 3 semesters of college so far and quite frankly most of the classes are a matter of memorization long enough to pass some test and the tests and final account for around 70% of the grade. The tests cover things the teachers do not always talk about, so they give us 'study guides' which is just the test itself without the answers.. So between that and google I memorize the answers and pass the test. The final is just random questions from the other tests.. The Labs usually count for around 30% of the grade, but typically if you do them at all you get a 100. This is not a way to learn... The teachers that write their own questions (that are qualified to do so) are the classes I learn a bit more from.

It is a lot easier for these teachers to use the premade questions from the book manufactures than make their own questions however...

Re:Not a way to learn (1)

entrigant (233266) | about 4 months ago | (#46984245)

This may point to a measurement problem, but you're not forced into it. A desire to learn is all that is needed to master the subject even if the tests are not a reliable indicator of mastery, or are you attempting to say that the instructor is uninterested in teaching even to those who wish to learn?

Re:Not a way to learn (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 4 months ago | (#46984247)

If you're depending on others for your learning, well, you're doing it wrong.

Re:Not a way to learn (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 months ago | (#46984355)

Ah, but is it possible to teach yourself?

You can't teach what you don't know, and if you already knew it you don't need to be taught it.

Re:Not a way to learn (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 months ago | (#46984453)

I am firmly of the opinion that the only person who can teach you is yourself. The point of lectures is not to teach you, it is to give you a guided tour of a part of your ignorance. It's then up to you whether you decide to remain happy with that ignorance or seek to dispel it. If you decide that you want to learn something, then other people can help you, but they can't force you to learn.

Re:Not a way to learn (0)

bussdriver (620565) | about 4 months ago | (#46984851)

You must be old. Everything is passive today, people expect to just sit and absorb info and be entertained as well. The professor has to be an entertainer and if they drone on it is THEIR fault the students fail to focus their short attentions away from their smart phones and laptops. It's a TV culture and the new generation has a drug like addiction to instant feedback.

I have a hard time believing people today can even reach 10 minutes. If they TRY sure I don't doubt it, but if they don't try it's probably 5 seconds. They tell video editors to change scene ever 2.5 seconds average.

If I knew the material, I found the dull lectures RELEVANT and useful- they were not dull because of the CONTENT of the lecture, not the presentation of it. On rare occasion I'd have work that was ahead of the lecture so then I was REALLY motivated to make sense of what I was already working on. College doesn't have to please the students/parents like K-12, we should just let them fail if they are not going to be serious. College students are supposed to be able to do something on their own - the prof is there to guide, support, challenge them as they develop; not simply certify they finished the obstacle course. College today is the new High School or JOB training for most people and that is a big part of the problem; along with business-oriented thinking. Students are not customers.

Prof is the master and students are the apprentices. The good setup has them doing a lot of "wax-on / wax-off" with the student being the ignorant and determined "grasshopper" and the wise master guiding them along a productive journey where they trust in the master's wisdom on where to go next (except unlike a martial arts movie, most don't realize the master's plan got them somewhere; especially, if they didn't ever have to prove to themselves of their new skills.)

Re:Not a way to learn (1)

the phantom (107624) | about 4 months ago | (#46984929)

The point of lectures is not to teach you, it is to give you a guided tour of a part of your ignorance.

I am stealing this and putting it on my syllabi from now forward. Thank you for the turn of phrase.

Re:Not a way to learn (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 4 months ago | (#46984847)

Your child has made my point, in part.

Teachers, at the very least, show guideposts in unmapped territory. The best understand map is one which you fill in yourself.

n.b.It seems that regardless of what unmapped territory you have yet to discover, you are constantly bombarded daily with the next most logical piece of the puzzle (a simple consequence of reality). 'Teachers', in the academic sense, are less than necessary.

This makes me laugh most when hearing racists speak.

Re:Not a way to learn (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about 4 months ago | (#46984823)

You're still in the front half of your classes. The amount of rote learning in the last two years should be much less. If not, you are in a crappy department or a crappy school, or have picked crappy instructors.

Re:Not a way to learn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985401)

A lot of my class tests had a written portion to most tests, even the 300 student lecture halls had written portions to the tests.

Old school education (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984089)

Prior to 1980, but after the 40's, education had gone the more "interactive" direction. But due to a disparity between educational performance between boys and girls, They switched to more lecture based teaching. The thought was that boys with their more dominant personalities interacted more while the girls "wallflowered" the labs and interactive portions of education. The NEA, feminists and other groups drove the Education dept to change teaching standards to make it more fair for Girls. The end product is yes, more girls in college (61% to 39%) but also a significantly lower percentage of boys in college, and higher dropout rates in certain areas due to a lack of interest. Also, since that point there has been a greatly increased "ADD" and "ADHD" diagnosis rate, since they boys are now expected to sit and listen for hours. This applies to all grade levels through soph/Jr college level ages.

People knew this before but political correctness drove the wrong diagnosis, damaged the ability for boys to get an education for over 30 years and has led to a decline in education for that same period. Instead of finding the right solution (one possibility, Segregation by gender and difference teaching methods) the NEA and cohorts hamstrung 1/2 the US population, and probably that policy was followed in other nations too.

Girls can handle themselves now and are less likely to be "put in the corner" by dominant and more aggressive personalities. Lets bring back more interactive education at ALL levels and give boys a chance again. And quick diagnosing bored boys as ADD because you havent been educated on how to teach anything but a docile girl class. Oh, and bring back punishments for bad behavior and let teachers control their classrooms.

Re:Old school education (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about 4 months ago | (#46984145)

As the father of a daughter who's been diagnosed ADHD, I'm inclined to take your entire post with a very small Siberian salt mine.

Re:Old school education (1)

SirSlud (67381) | about 4 months ago | (#46984495)

Ah, your one data point throws off his entire asinine argument! (Seriously, the OP is a moron, but I can't find anywhere in his drivel that he stated only boys can have ADHD.)

Zontar The Mindless = "eat your words" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984875)

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Clay Aiken's opponent DIES (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984099)

Anyone who honestly believes this was an accident doesn't understand Republican politics.

Sherberts (4, Interesting)

madsenj37 (612413) | about 4 months ago | (#46984101)

My accounting teacher at UCSC would give us Sherberts, like you would have orange sherbert between a mulitple course meal to cleanse your palette. It was an unrelated quick discussion multiple times in a class and it worked well.

Re:Sherberts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984241)

Is this like that Golden Girls/cosmonaut troll?

Re:Sherberts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984603)

Is this like that Golden Girls/cosmonaut troll?

No. It has to be true if it's the University of California at Santa Cruz. It opened in 1968 as a kind of new age poster child for a university designed specifically for Liberal Arts. There wasn't any grading; classes were either pass or fail. Since it was 1968, when LSD still had the momentum of being legal, the Vietnam exempt, considered it the happening hip place to be.

Re:Sherberts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984685)

Wtf is a "sherbert"? If you're talking about the frozen confection it's "sherbet", with only one "r".

Re:Sherberts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984813)

Wtf is a "sherbert"? If you're talking about the frozen confection it's "sherbet", with only one "r".

It's how Americans pronounce the word. If one has rarely seen the printed version, it's a good guess as far as the spelling goes, although I think I've seen it misspelled at the places that sell ice cream. Then again maybe the poster was mixing term sounds and was reminded of that Qbert video game.

Re:Sherberts (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985101)

Wtf is a "sherbert"?

He works with Dilbert and Dogbert.

1.5 times AS likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984107)

Clicking through links, the data said "55 percent more students fail lecture-based courses than classes with at least some active learning". I would call this 55% more likely or 1.5 times as likely, not 1.5 times more likely (which seems to imply 150% more likely).

Nothing left but work! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984159)

Studies show homework is ineffective, too. If the trend continues, education won't be deemed useful -- only learning while on the job will be deemed useful. Couple this with the fact that nobody wants to hire "green" people and the ecosystem of learning failure is complete.

Sounds to me like this is begging for something like "free structured internships". You don't pay money for school, but your employer doesn't pay you for your work. As long as there's some oversight ensuring interns aren't stuck with grunt work which doesn't facilitate learning it'd cost less for students, less for employers, and contribute to the workforce more directly.

Re:Nothing left but work! (4, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 4 months ago | (#46984299)

Because we all know that the one single purpose of an education is to train you for a job in the capitalist hell of the labour market. Critical thinking, political activism, creativity, and cultural development and experimentation are all excluded in the Educate Me For A Job model. Of course, the defunding of universities in the USA has caused their costs to go vertical - benefiting the vectoral class of financial extraction via student loans, precluding people from becoming activists, because if they get busted or booted they're stuck with a jillion dollar debt and no degree. Of course, the money for schools has been poured into prisons and warfare, where, again, it benefits the rich, and not much else. So, yeah, get a degree. Get a job. Be a useless debt slave cog in the machine.

learn by working (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 4 months ago | (#46984175)

this should be obvious, but as always, the obvious things are somehow not obvious to the majority.

You are wasting your time in college. If you want actually to learn something you need to find a job, an internship, become a volunteer, doesn't matter, as long as you actually start doing something hands on you won't really know it (well, I am talking about most people, who learn by doing, not a minority of those who can really learn by listening).

no shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984193)

no shit

Education is not boring (3, Insightful)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 4 months ago | (#46984203)

Teachers are.

Re:Education is not boring (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984741)

Teachers are.

That's one inconvenient truth. The other is its complement:

students are boring, too.

Just like teachers, not all of them, but those that are in class because they have to, not because they want to. And just as it takes an extraordinary student to activate a boring teacher, it takes an extraordinary teacher to activate a boring student. And here's the kicker - extraordinaries are rare, on both sides. Borings are far, far more common. Besides, with current level of teacher pay, passionate teachers are slowly going the way of the dodo.

momkind; how MANic viagrant cabalists 'weather' us (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984279)

hanging on to our hemispheres http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=wmd+weather+starvation+media even our imaginary fear of our imaginary secrets (history 'heritage') has value? neverending holycost Ihttp://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=unrepentant&sm=3 our undefeatable spirit of honor & compassion is on the rebound see you there

From The Front Lines... (5, Insightful)

Dr_Ish (639005) | about 4 months ago | (#46984333)

Although this study is good for grabbing headlines, the analysis seems a little bit shallow. For one thing, the focus is on STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering) disciplines, As someone who teaches at the college level in both a STEM field and a traditional humanities field, I am well aware that different areas require different methods. For instance, if one is teaching the basics of computational cognitive modeling, then some interactive segments are necessary. However, things work entriely differently if one is teaching, for instance, the history of the philosophy of mind. Another issue I have with the study is (as best I can tell -- I cannot access the original paper) that they do not control for lecturer effectiveness. To put it simply, we all know that some people are better at lecturing than others. That being said, even when teaching say, Cartesian Dualism, there are steps that can be taken to make lecture classes better. For instance, it is widely known that most humans have an attention span of between 10 to 20 minutes. So, it is simple enough to give everyone a break every twelve minutes, or so and tell a story, or some historical anecdote. Similarly, the Socratic approach, asking for input from students throughout the class and then encouraging discussion, can also make lectures much more effective and enjoyable. These are some of the things I do. That being said, I have known people who just drone on in a monotone, in lecture classes. Folks such as that can be utterly tedious. My point here is that unless the effectiveness of the teachers is taken into account, this study cannot be trusted.

Re:From The Front Lines... (2)

namgge (777284) | about 4 months ago | (#46984725)

it is widely known that most humans have an attention span of between 10 to 20 minutes

It may be widely believed, but it's not true for people studying a topic that interests them. In this case their attention span is limited by hunger and/or bladder-capacity.

The oft-quoted 10 minute attention span is applicable to paying attention to material that doesn't interest the subject.

Re:From The Front Lines... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984959)

I'm not sure why you cannot read the study at PNAS. Here's a direct link to it: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/05/08/1319030111.full.pdf+html

If you had read it, you would have seen the following, which directly addresses the point you criticize them for (inaccurately):

"Analyzing variation with respect to controls over instructor identity also produced no evidence of heterogeneity (Q = 0.007, df = 1, P = 0.934): More poorly controlled studies, with different instructors in the two treatment groups or with no data provided on instructor equivalence, gave equivalent results to studies with identical or ran- domized instructors in the two treatments (Table 1)."

I sure wish... (1, Funny)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 4 months ago | (#46984445)

someone had told my Dad that.

Easiest for the instructor (3, Interesting)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about 4 months ago | (#46984475)

One reason lectures are so popular is that they are far, far easier for the instructor. Putting together a useful interactive activity is much harder than simply planning what to say. Even incorporating someone else's pre-designed activity is difficult to synchronize with one's own lesson plan. At the grade school level, I believe there is considerable room for improvement through teachers learning how to share and use activity plans.

At the college and graduate school level, it gets much harder on the professor as potential sources of planned activities thin out and specialization increases. Increasing interactivity demands much more time of these professors since most such improvements will have to be custom-designed for the class. Given the social structure of university compensation (research counts, teaching doesn't), I find it hard to see interactivity at the college or grad school level increasing very quickly.

That said, college and grad school courses are perhaps more interactive than they are given credit for. They often meet just a few times a week, reducing the boring lecture hours, and assign a lot of homework, increasing interactivity in a way that fails to appear in the studies cited.

For context, I am an adjunct professor (at the graduate school level). Based on this daily of studies I try to include some interactivity but it's really hard, so that mainly degenerates into a few intra-class status quizzes. My classes tend to meet for 2.5-3 hours per week, and have 5-20 hours of homework on top of that.

Re:Easiest for the instructor (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984715)

Also, as much as college students SAY they want more activities and less lecture, a large percentage of them grumble and resist any and all activities. Only through dogged persistence can a class (and only if it is small) get used to learning through activities. Once that happens, then their learning really blossoms. But getting them to that point is not easy. I have had students roll their eyes and flat out refuse to briefly discuss a topic with the person sitting next to them - much less engage in a truly creative activity. I teach at a private university. These are students from good backgrounds with parents spending the big bucks. And they sit there and glare if I dare to ask them to do anything other than be passive sponges. So, there's also lots of positive reinforcement from students for professors to lecture.

Re:Easiest for the instructor (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about 4 months ago | (#46984793)

Interestingnow that I reflect on it, my experiences are similar.

Perhaps it is because humans dislike change?

depends (1)

MoFoQ (584566) | about 4 months ago | (#46984485)

I think it depends on a number of factors such as the one giving the lecture, the material covered by the lecture, the environment in which the lecture is given, and the one receiving the lecture.

I've had classes in the past that...well...the room was just not that comfortable to listen to a lecture (it was a 3hr class in a slightly overcrowded/warm room in the evening and it was a boring biology class; insta-sleep time).

I've also had classes where the lecturers (this particular class had 3 different professors; it was an American Studies/history class) all give lectures which were material to the class and were on the exams.
Oddly, I found the lectures interesting and was able to absorb the information better than my other classmates who took notes (I did not take notes and according to the professors, the first ever to do so and get a decent grade).

Then I've had classes where the hands-on part was more interesting such as physics with lasers (sadly, there were no sharks).

In essence, a YMMV situation.

Old results, bosses' results. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984497)

We've known this since the 1950s. Reporting actually new results would be worthwhile don't you think? Or even "Its still true since educationalists discovered this in the 1950s:"

Appeals like this are appeals to work yourself like a dog for the boss. I see no reason to do so. The only reason to modify teaching techniques is to reduce your own labour input (while not letting the boss know this, of course) or increase your own enjoyment. If you "think of the kids" what you're really doing is increasing surplus value for your employer. Don't. The kids clearly come second behind yourself. Start treating them like that. Maybe you might even work out ways which significantly reduce your labour input AND which incidentally improve pedagogy.

You pay for the sausage: don't complain about watching it get made.

Part of the problem is taking notes (4, Interesting)

bi$hop (878253) | about 4 months ago | (#46984517)

One of my calculus professors told us on the first day of class that note-taking was forbidden during his lectures. He argued that, in our quest to write down everything he said, we would inevitably miss important points or misunderstand key concepts. I was skeptical at first, but I soon discovered that he was absolutely right. I was able to absorb much more than I thought by listening intently to what he said, and fully focusing on what he drew on the board. In short, his lectures were effective and valuable.

I never took notes in any other class after that, and my grades never suffered from it. In most classes, the lecture materials were made available for later download anyway! Moreover, the freedom to simply pay attention actually made lectures more enjoyable.
 

Re:Part of the problem is taking notes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985757)

It really depends on the teacher. Some classes are very dense, where you will lose something by taking notes, other classes are very slow where it's one of the few ways to help stay awake. Some classes are also pretty rote to the teacher, whereas the couple of recent classes I took tended to have small tangents and asides that were interesting or valuable but that I also wouldn't want to have to slog through video in order to find again (my brain starts melting very quickly when watching video of classes.) I think the best thing is staying aware of the pacing, and knowing when taking notes may interfere.

Concentration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984559)

The more you focus on what is being taught the more you will learn. Minds tend to wander when a lecture just drones on. Just the threat of being called on will increase the focus. But as I remember from my old school days the same children tend to put up their hands and get called. A way around this is to call students randomly.

Replace lectures with educational videos (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984567)

A few years back, between research jobs, I did some time as a community college instructor. And preparing good lectures is hard. It's difficult to appreciate the amount of work that goes into a good lecture unless you've had to do it.

I used to like lectures: the old professor all covered in chalk had a great aesthetic appeal. But then I saw how much work it was.

And the thing is that the same lectures are being given all over the world. There I was - giving a bunch of introductory biology lectures. But a bunch of other instructors also at that college were giving essentially the same lectures. And then all over the country other instructors were pouring huge amounts of work into preparing and giving the same sets of lectures.

Back during the, rather lengthy, Iraq war, the USA was spending a billion dollars every few days. And there are plenty of financial guys who could easily afford to pay billions (more) in taxes. Maybe their mistresses will have to make do with a few less designer handbags. And maybe they won't have quite as much incentive to bring the world financial system to its knees (again). In the grand scheme of the US budget, a few billion dollars really isn't that much.

But imagine if the USA poured a few billion dollars into some some really good educational videos. Get the top in-person lecturers and make really good animations - even go ahead and make them interactive for classroom use. And the key point would be to release them into the public domain (e.g. ditch the model where some commercial publisher retains copyright and charges for each incremental copy).

With those kinds of resources, you could provide a much more effective and efficient education than all this re-inventing the wheel where everyone separately prepares and delivers essentially the same lectures. There are a huge number of real problems in the world that desperately need solving: poverty, disease, conflict. And education is a key piece of the solution.

So education very is important. But we're stuck with a bunch of inefficient traditions that just don't leverage modern technology.

Theory / book vs hands on work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46984629)

It seems like part of schools are like that at least the trade schools got that right more hands on work and less lecture time.

Socrates knew this long ago. (1)

glrotate (300695) | about 4 months ago | (#46984659)

Nothing beats lightning strike Socratic method lectures.

Junk Science (3, Insightful)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 4 months ago | (#46984747)

Unless you can have a controlled study where both groups take the same exams and have the same labs/assignments the "result" is meaningless.

Re:Junk Science (2)

Kittenman (971447) | about 4 months ago | (#46984815)

Unless you can have a controlled study where both groups take the same exams and have the same labs/assignments the "result" is meaningless.

You also have to rely on the sample students being exactly the same. And I mean, exactly. Some people study best with a TV set droning in the background. The lady next to my desk has a radio going. What works for some people doesn't work for others.

Maybe the scientific findings will be that not all people will be the same? That'll be worthwhile research.

Far from junk science... (2)

tamyrlin (51) | about 4 months ago | (#46985221)

If you read the article in PNAS ( http://www.pnas.org/content/ea... [pnas.org] ) you can see that they consider the question of examination equivalence by only looking at previous studies that "were largely or solely limited to changes in the conduct of the regularly scheduled class or recitation sessions;" So based on what I have read in the paper I would classify this as very far from junk science.

My Most Memorable Classes (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about 4 months ago | (#46984785)

My most memorable classes were not lectures. The purpose of textbooks and assigned reading was to transfer the fundamental information. Homework from the textbook gave you an opportunity to gauge whether or not you were actually learning the material and your ability to apply the processes described by the text. Classrooms were a place to first have a pop quiz (a great way to really gauge if you have retained and/or truly comprehend what you have been learning), then to discuss the reading assignment (Socratic method), and if applicable, engage in a demonstration or skill-building activity.

Depends on the lecturer, doesn't it? (4, Interesting)

Hussman32 (751772) | about 4 months ago | (#46984843)

I've attended hundreds of hours of classes, and I've taught graduate courses in engineering. If your lecture has an introduction, preferably with a motivational topic, followed by an outline, a thorough discussion that includes examples for each concept, and then a summary, your students will learn more than if they did not show up and just read the notes.

Of course you need to engage them, ask them questions (I find ways to get them to contribute by offering homework points (capped) for interaction), but that's part of preparing a good lecture. I think most of the lectures that are criticized are those prepared by teachers that would rather do something else.

Prior Art (5, Insightful)

eulernet (1132389) | about 4 months ago | (#46985039)

In 230BC, Xun Zi wrote:

"What I hear, I forget. What I say, I remember. What I do, I understand."

or:

"Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand."

Nothing changed !

It's the kids not doing enough work anywhere (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985327)

Learning is a two way street. Putting everything onto the lectures is counterproductive to say the least. Nowadays, we have students holding unrealistic expectations that course material could be and should be completely understandable by simply going to the lectures, with minimal, if at all, work afterwards. Putting so called activities into the lecture serves the most obvious function, to slow it down. This should become quite clear when we compare what we are teaching with what was taught in the 70s.

Seriously, if you even remotely think whatever you are learning is worth the time and money spent on it ---- not the piece of paper you get to show people with ---- you would want to spend you own time getting things together before stepping into a lecture. If a lecture is full of such students, it would be run in a completely different way ---- and boring is going to be the last word ever to describe it.

Another fake argument is about interests. It's not the lecture is not interesting, it's the kids that has their interests in other places. They are fed with "follow your interest and passion, then you'll succeed", but are never told that interests are like plants, if not nurtured properly, it won't bear any fruit. All that nurturing is hard work, and it takes a while to realize what plant is suitable for the soil ---- until then, it might seem all work is wasted. Kids have the wrong idea of efforts leads to results. It needs to be hammered into them that efforts of the right sort leads to results ---- but they never get to understand it in the context of academics.

one size fits all (1)

recharged95 (782975) | about 4 months ago | (#46985415)

I chuckle at the title, Lectures Aren't Just Boring, They're Ineffective, Too, Study Finds

Just ask all those Mathematicians and Physicists considering lectures are the only form of classroom instruction as it involves breakdown of problems/past experiences from previous works. And considering a lot of the innovations use today originated from these guys says a lot.

Lectures are just a tool in the arsenal, it could be a poor performing teacher as well (one more interested in his research or tenure), putting finals at the same date, or have a critical paper due the day after thanksgiving. I recall a lot of the lectures I've been in fell in 2 camps, ones that were engaging and ones that just plain showed the teacher reading a text book. A lot of hands on stuff I don't recall anymore, the tech as changed as well, but at least lectures I can still refer to the notes and written examples. Both are good techniques of instruction, but should be used in the right context.

No surprise here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46985597)

More people learn by doing than listening. I teach for a living, and even I can't stand myself talking for more than 15 minutes. I need to ask questions, provoke dialog, give a small demonstration, or better yet, a small hands-on exercise.
Listening to someone talk, just talk, is often like listening to a textbook. zzzzzzzzz
Shake it up people. Just because straight "I talk, you listen" lecture is how you earned your degree does not mean it is an effective means to communicate information and develop understanding.

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