Vermont Medical School Says Goodbye To Lectures
Found in https://science.slashdot.org/story/17/08/04/2116207/vermont-medical-school-says-goodbye-to-lectures
Some amazing comments there:
As cynical as that sounds, it is absolutely correct. Having spent over 30 years in the arena, the takeover of universities by management is nothing short of shocking.
There are now more people shuffling papers around and pulling down 6 figure salaries keeping track of 5 thousand dollars worth of pencils than there are academics.
And if you want to know why college is so much more expensive now, they'll tell you they would have to hire 50 new accountants, 30 middle managers, 2 staff assistants, and have a building built to house them.
Then a year later, they'll release a report saying that the University needs to hire more accountants and managers.
The best teaching technique I've ever seen was that practiced by the Bible Study Fellowship back in the 1980s. All the material was broken down into 1-week chunks. You started with reading assignments and an outline that you did on your own. This was followed by a weekly small-group discussion where the group collectively answered a series of questions on the same material. This was followed by a lecture of the whole fellowship. The lecture was now very interesting, because you had personally worked through the material, worked with others to process it and cover the bits you didn't get on your own, and now you had some appreciation of what you were dealing with.
I adopted that pattern for every course I've ever had to teach, and the retention is phenomenal, 90% and higher.
My opinion is it worked so well because:
- Same material, multiple processing methods (reading, writing, talking, listening)
- Same material, multiple repetitions
- Your FIRST introduction to the material is personal. That increases "ownership".
- Questions answered BY a small group invite collaboration and sharing
There you have it.
How is this different than the Problem Based Learning (PBL) [wikipedia.org] approach pioneered at McMaster medical school in the 60s (and since adopted worldwide)?
As students at Mac, we often got a kick out of seeing even our fiercest crtics at schools like the University of Toronto slowly come around to our pedagogy, but with subtly different names of course (ie, case-based learning).
It works great for medical school, and I think would also apply well to graduate school, where you have pressure to obtain results or not embarass yourself on the wards to drive your learning -- often jokingly called "Shame-based learning" in medicine. On the other hand, the students that I met that used PBL during their undergrad often had frighteningly large gaps in their knowledge if they weren't interested in a particular topic. And PBL is not at all suited to giving grades out, which is not a problem at med school which are almost exclusively pass-fail, but does not help you sort the wheat from the chaff at an undergrad level.
Thanks for sharing this
I've seen these stories about a particular school, college, or university dropping and/or adopting a particular pedagogical strategy or technique come and go over the years. Each one has its critics and supporters, e.g. PBL is better than direct instruction or vice versa.
As far as my understanding of the research on the subject goes, which is better? -- It depends on who and what you're teaching.
- If it's foundational knowledge aimed at novices in a particular domain, then direct instruction and even frontal instruction (people often conflate the two) is more than likely the more appropriate option.
- With more knowledgable and proficient learners, who need to learn to coordinate sets of skills to perform under-defined, messy, complex, real-world tasks (AKA competencies), more problem, project, and teamwork based strategies are probably more appropriate.
For non-ideological teaching, you'll probably need a wide range of teaching strategies and techniques, teacher-led as well as student-centred, and need to select from them according to who and what you're teaching.
Re: using Moodle for computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL), additionally, the transactional costs of collaborating online should be taken into account. Taking two weeks to have an asynchronous discussion on a forum that would normally take a few minutes face to face or setting teamwork projects in order to learn some basic facts is sub-optimal. In that case, if a webinar isn't feasible, then just present the information, present some worked examples, and organise some authentic tasks around it -- It'll be more efficient and probably give better learning outcomes. CSCL has its legitimate uses and can be highly effective but teachers need to know when it's appropriate and how to use it, not just fall into the old Maslow's hammer fallacy ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_instrument ).
Also, asking students to search the web and/or academic journals on a particular topic may give them useful library skills but it's also time-consuming and exhausting and, in my opinion, as over-used a teaching strategy as lectures. Students may be working very hard and diligently but not learning very much* because searching for material doesn't help students to understand it -- They also need sufficient time and support to make sense of it and to learn from it. In most cases, it's better for the teacher to simply present the most appropriate materials they can find and organise some activities around it to ensure that students come away with coherent understandings.
Just my $0.02!
*Conflating working hard with learning a lot is another sin that many teachers commit. It may sound obvious to say that it's not what students do but what they learn from doing it that's important, but it's something I see all too often.
> e.g. PBL is better than direct instruction or vice versa
A teacher decides to follow, say PBL, for one topic and some other method for another topic - there is nothing wrong about it. But when a whole Institution decides to scrap one method completely, that is where the destruction starts. I can't believe something as simple as that is overseen, not once, as you say!
Anyway, it was a week of extreme views. Somewhere else people believe that our screens make us less happy, https://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=356352. Here a University wants to get rid of lecturers - to be replaced by what? By screens, as far as I can see.
BTW, the YouTube algorithm for suggesting follow-up videos is quite intelligent, I must say. Found these talks as a result:
- "Why are so many of our teachers and schools so successful? John Hattie at TEDxNorrkoping"
Highly entertaining, specially the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) joke
- "Shut Up! And Let Me Teach: Ending the Assault on Teacher Autonomy | Chandra Shaw | TEDxLSCTomball"
(You know them, this is for the broad public.)
What does it mean by "getting rid of lectures?" and replacing them with screens?
In the high school level, I have heard this referred to as "flipped classroom". The typical way a class works is that the students hear a lecture, and then they try homework. In the flipped classroom, the student listens to a "lecture" on the screen, and then during the classroom time they would work through problems, so if they don't understand something, the teacher is there to help them.
So instead of the teacher present the material during the class time, the teacher spends her time focusing on the material that the students did not get from the lecture.
But this model seems to fit better with math style courses, rather than something like history.
In other words, there is no one way fits all model.