Study shows that students learn more when taking part in classrooms that emplo7y active-learning strategies

College students often don’t know when they’re learning

And the same goes for high school students is my educated guess!

The research evidence is clear. Learning by trying something yourself is superior to passively listening to lectures, especially in science. It’s puzzling why more university professors don’t teach in this more hands-on, interactive way. BSource: The Hechinger report

This example is from Harvard University where Logan McCarthy was a star lecturer. He was a former opera singer and all the students loved to listen to him lecture. But he changes his approach after being introduced to Canadian Louis Deslaurier who was a proselytizer for teaching by doing, what he calls “active learning”.

They conducted an experiment together where they each taught both ways and studied what happened.

The class was divided into two and they worked on problem-solving working in small groups. Both professors shared the instructions with the groups and also did lectures in the other half of the group.

At the end of each lesson, students filled out surveys about their perceptions of the class and completed a 12-question multiple choice test to demonstrate their knowledge. As expected, students mastered the material more when they were actively learning regardless of whether McCarty or Deslauriers had been their instructor. McCarty’s students did as well as Deslauriers’; it didn’t seem to matter if they had the superstar lecturer or not.

The surprising thing here was that the students preferred the lecture and actually thought they learned more from it too. The student strongly agreed that I felt like I learned a great deal from this lecture. And that “Instructor was effective at teaching,”

Students feel they learn more by listening to a great lecturer than they do.

“When students hear a lecture from a superstar lecturer, they feel, ‘This is good. I am learning.’ But an hour later, they’re not going to remember it,” said Deslauriers. In other words, the feeling of learning is misleading.

Two things appear to be going on here. When you’re listening to a great expert explain something well, it’s easy to mistake the speaker’s smooth, easy delivery for your own understanding. If you’ve ever watched a great cooking show and then stumbled to make a béchamel sauce at home, you’ve experienced this. Students often think they’re following along in class, but at home, they don’t know how to do the homework and they struggle in the course.

The second part of the explanation is that real learning is hard work and it often doesn’t feel good. When you’re struggling to solve a problem in an active learning classroom, it may feel frustrating.  Making mistakes and getting feedback to correct misunderstandings is where the learning happens.

“Sports and music instruction make this really clear,” McCarty said. “Watching Roger Federer play tennis can get you really excited about tennis, but it’s not going to make you a great tennis player.”

You can find more on this subject in this research article by Louis Deslauriers Logan S. McCarty  Kelly Miller,, and Greg Kestin

These results also suggest that student evaluations of teaching should be used with caution as they rely on students’ perceptions of learning and could inadvertently favor inferior passive teaching methods over research-based active pedagogical approaches (4445)—a superstar lecturer could create such a positive FOL that students would choose those lectures over active learning.

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