Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Learning is not a spectator sport."

"Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers." This line comes from Chickering and Gamson's (1987) "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education." It had been a while since I last read the short article, but the "learning is not a spectator sport" line came to mind recently as I listened to "Don't Lecture Me," a feature production of American Radio Works. The program makes a strong case for  active engagement of students in the classroom:
The fact that people learn better when they're actively engaged is one of the central findings from an explosion of cognitive research conducted over the last several decades. Another major finding is that short-term memory is very limited - your brain can only store so much at once. A lot of the information presented in a typical lecture comes at people too fast and is quickly forgotten. Eric Mazur says lecturing is a waste of time. It's not an effective way for students to learn information; reading the textbook is better. 
What I liked about the program is that it gave a real feel to what learning is like in the classroom when students are doing more than sitting like spectators.

The program aired locally on public radio a few months ago. I only now had the chance to listen to it with focused attention. I recommend it as what will surely be an interesting and thought-provoking diversion during the Winter break. You can access the audio file and the transcript here.