Monday, January 2, 2012

Don't Lecture Me!

The flipped classroom has gotten a good deal of press.  The Khan Academy in particular has popularized the idea of flipping the lecture out of real time and placing it online in video format as homework.  This approach frees up teaching time for hands on work, group discussion and individualized tutoring. In short, it gets teachers out from behind the lectern and into direct interactions with their students. 

Physicists Seek To Lose The Lecture As Teaching Tool by Emily Hanford interviews Eric Mazur a lauded master teacher of Physics at Harvard and MIT.  Mazur states that the key is to get students to do the assigned reading (the information flow) before they come to class.  He then talks about how he teaches huge classes without resorting to traditional lecture techniques.

As this article will explain, the ineffectiveness of the 'Lecture' and the realization that students learn by discussion and interaction isn't new. Mazur has been doing this for 20 years. Indeed, it has been well established that the ancient mode of lecture just isn't effective for the vast majority of students.  (Also see in this blog: Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur)

Once faculty make peace with the changing role of teacher (from lecturer to coach) students learn more.  

This is a hard transition that many traditional lecturers are not willing to make. This is also reason why traditionalist lecturers have difficulty with online teaching. Far too many college instructors assume that just putting up video of their lectures along with writing assignments and tests will work. (We know it won't.)

Unlike k-12 teachers who have a deep understanding of how students learn, many college lecturers are not trained educators. Many lecturers are hired for their content expertise, not their teaching skills. They teach as they were taught, via lecture. This perpetuates a flawed method long proven to be ineffective. (For more on effectiveness of the lecture method see Twenty terrible reasons for lecturing.)

In an online environment refined teaching skills are essential. Online teachers must use the technology to personally connect with each of their students.  The remote sage on the stage just doesn't work in modern e-learning environments.  Learning comes from interaction with a community of learners and facilitators.

Online or face to face, educators must promote discussion, hands on engagement, and digital manipulation of ideas if they want more learning in their classes.

For more reporting on this topic see:  Don't Lecture Me!