Study: Engaged Students Learn Twice As Much
"Lectures have been equally ineffective for centuries."--Carl Weiman
The Boston Globe headline read "Study: It's not the teacher, but method that matters." The headline is misleading. In fact, the study reveals that it is the teacher and how the teacher teaches that matters the most. While the study looked at college physics students, the findings apply to all levels of teaching and learning.
According to Science Magazine, the study conducted by Nobel Prize winning physicist, Carl Weiman, found that "students learned a lot more from teaching assistants using interactive tools than they did from a veteran professor giving a traditional lecture." The students who had to engage interactively using the TV remote-like devices scored about twice as high on a test compared to those who heard the normal lecture."
According to the report the interactive method used had almost no lecturing. It involved "short, small-group discussions, in-class "clicker" quizzes, demonstrations and question-answer sessions. Frequent Checks for Understanding
"The teachers got real-time graphic feedback on what the students were learning and what they weren't getting."
Weiman said that "It's really what's going on in the students' minds rather than who is instructing them." In other words, lecturers focus on content and teaching, while those using interactive methods put the focus on student learning and process.
The Mindset of the Teacher
Those teachers who prefer lectures with no discussion believe that their job is to impart knowledge. To lecturers, the mind is a vessel to be filled. This is not to say that teachers should never lecture. Students often need background knowledge that may necessitate some use of lecture.
On the other hand, teachers who prefer methods that actively engage students believe that what the student learns takes precedence over what they are teaching. They believe that the mind is a lamp that needs to be lit.
Behavior Doesn't Lie
Students vote with their feet. In the study, student attendance and attention were higher in the interactive class.
According to Weiman, "This is clearly more effective learning. Everybody should be doing this. ... You're practicing bad teaching if you are not doing this."
Wieman said "the need for a more hands-on teaching approach isn't an indictment of a generation raised on video games. It has more to do with the way the brain learns, he said. This method has long worked well in individual tutoring; it's just now being applied on a grander scale, he said.
High-performing schools are student and learning-focused. Struggling and underachieving schools are adult and teaching-focused. It is not what we teach that is important. The focus needs to be on what our students are learning as a result of our teaching.
Engagement, the active interaction of students with teachers and other students in relation to the content of the lesson, is the key to learning. Engaged learners learn more and they retain what they learn longer.
The option of choosing between lecturing and engaging students was taken off the table when we decided to eliminate factory model, ability-driven schools that sorted students in favor of work and effort-driven schools in which each and every student is expected to achieve to high levels.
A challenge to school leaders
Using the above definition of engagement--students actively interacting...--take a walk through some classrooms. If students are not actively interacting, they are not engaged. Hint: If teachers are calling on students who are raising their hands only a small minority of students will be engaged. The others may appear to be paying attention, but upon closer inspection, they could be doing or thinking about anything. Note: these teachers, while not truly engaging students are far superior to those who ask a question and answer their own question before the students can even raise their hands.