Is it time to rethink the way university lectures are delivered?

A more interactive, discussion- and quiz-based style of university teaching brings dramatic benefits to science learning, according to a new study.

For the crucial week 12 lectures, the intervention students were led by Deslauriers and Schelew (both of whom have fairly limited teaching experience) and took part in a series of discussions in small groups, group tasks, quizzes on pre-class reading, clicker questions (each student answers questions using an electronic device that feeds their answers back to the teacher), and instructor feedback. There was no formal lecturing. The aim, according to the authors, was:

“…to have the students spend all their time in class engaged in deliberate practice at ‘thinking scientifically’ in the form of making and testing predictions and arguments about the relevant topics, solving problems, and critiquing their own reasoning and that of others.”

The control group students had their usual lectures, covering the same material as the intervention students and they were given the same pre-class reading.

The results on the test were striking. The intervention group averaged 74 per cent correct, compared with 41 per cent correct in the control group. Factoring out the performance that could be achieved purely through guessing, the researchers said this meant the intervention group had performed twice as well as controls (the effect size was 2.5 standard deviations). Student feedback on the intervention was also overwhelmingly positive: 90 per cent of students said they’d enjoyed the interactive technique.

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