Curriculum

New Research on Instructional Styles: Take Your Pick

By Anthony Rebora — May 16, 2011 1 min read

What’s a teacher to do? A couple of weeks ago, we highlighted an item about some new research showing that, when it comes to boosting math and science test scores, direct, lecture-style instruction is more effective than instruction that’s oriented around student inquiry or problem-solving activities. Now we learn that the journal Science is publishing an important study finding that, in an introductory college physics course, students placed in an experimental, collaborative-learning class performed significantly better on an end-of-course exam than students who were given a traditional lecture-based class.

“As opposed to the traditional lecture, in which students are passive, this [collaboration-based] class actively engages students and allows them time to synthesize new information and incorporate it into mental model,” one of the researchers involved in the project told the New York Times. “When they can incorporate things into a mental model, we find much better retention.”

It’s worth noting, however, that a number of pyschology experts have pointed to possible problems with the study, including what the Times calls the “dude-I-slept-through-class” mentality of college freshmen. It seems, for example, that a number of the students were actually absent from the exam. But then, is there anything to be learned from the fact that most of those absent were apparently from the lecture-based class?

(Hat Tip: Larry Ferlazzo)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.