In the latest edition of Stanford, an alumni publication, atomic physicist Carl Wieman examines the differences in student performance between sit-and-listen versus hands-on, problem solving. (Sam Scott writes the article entitled “Should We Lose the Lecture?”) No question about the results. Students who actively participated in classes FAR outperformed their peers, even when the teacher was much more highly qualified.
So here’s the kicker: These studies were conducted at the graduate level of education! Research at the elementary, middle, and high school levels confirms that our brains simply can’t absorb such lengthy chunks of information. And we also need to actively interact with information (and our peers) to get the most out of instruction.
As teachers and students, we intuitively know this to be true. Yet in our practice, it feels expedient to lecture, lecture, lecture. Unless we are quite deliberate in structuring short chunks of information followed by authentic student interaction, we will overload our kids’ brains. Being a highly qualified teacher means losing the lecture.