Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

As a scientist who has gotten interested in science education, it's amazed me to learn about the people who actively study the way that students learn science, and how poorly this meshes with the way we tend to teach science. The standard way of teaching it-- a lecture series, some lab activities-- the effectiveness of this has been intensely studied, and it's been found that the vast majority of students learn and retain very little of the material. Researchers have also looked at alternatives and found them to provide very significant gains in student learning.

These researchers have done numerous things, but one of the key elements is actually interviewing students, conducting surveys, and testing out their theories about what their results mean. It doesn't sound like rocket science, and it isn't, really. Consistently, they find that students need much more engagement with the material, and to have their assumptions challenged more vigorously than typical in order to learn well.

This points me to two sets of people it's important to listen to-- The students themselves to understand directly what goes on with them as they are being educated, and other smart people who have familiarized themselves with the reality on the ground. It's important to both be personally familiar with the situation and part of a community of smart people who know the reality on the ground!

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Comment by nomadHAR on April 13, 2010 at 9:29pm
i think it also has to do with the Skinner's behaviorism, which is still the primary method of teaching. students are overloaded with text and speech delivered information, then tested on their memorization ability.

i have always been a major fan of constructivist teaching and scaffolding. the students should be engaged in activities that immerse them in the subject, where they experience how different objects and theories relate in the practice of a subject. they should be a part of building their own knowledge, with personal input into their learning, as well as knowledgeable people to guide them.
Comment by Gabriel Martin on April 13, 2010 at 9:44pm
I will definately that that to the bank... I usually teach myself things, its quite lonely, I would prefer your method. Also, this is why I love evoke so much, it lets me learn from others, but also share what I know.
Comment by Gabriel Martin on April 13, 2010 at 9:44pm
er... *take that to the bank rather
Comment by nomadHAR on April 14, 2010 at 3:17am
i've also used a lot of Socratic method teaching. ask the right questions, and the students will make their own way to the answers.

there are two main reasons that constructivist methods such as scaffolding and Socratic questions are not used. one is that some teachers never learned these methods. the main reason is laziness. it is very easy to stand at the front of a room and talk AT people. it is much more difficult to create a conversation/debate in the classroom. it also takes time to plan and prepare activities that immerse the student in the subjects.

FULL DISCLOSURE: i have taught levels from 4th grade through 12th, undergraduate and adult/continuing education in three countries. i believe in these theories because they work.


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