A Boost For Active Learning

Career College Central summary:

  • Scott Freeman and the other scholars behind a new study comparing the efficacy of lectures with more "active" forms of instruction in the science classroom are not aiming low in describing the significance of their findings.
  • Just as the U.S. surgeon general's 1964 report on smoking provided strong evidence linking tobacco use to ill health, Freeman said, the study he and his colleagues published Monday "provides overwhelming evidence that active learning works better than lecture." That may not mean that instructors stop lecturing, he said, "but it shouldn't be about the evidence anymore."
  • The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team of researchers at the University of Washington and University of Maine, is a meta-analysis of 225 previous studies comparing student outcomes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses that use lectures only versus those that incorporate group problem-solving, use of clickers, workshops or other forms of "active learning."
  • On average, students in sections characterized by active learning scored 6 percent better on examinations than did their counterparts in lecture-only classrooms, and those who were in lecture-driven sections were 1.5 times likelier to fail than were their peers in active learning classes. About a third of all students in traditional lecture classes either withdrew or got Fs or Ds, compared to about one-fifth of students in sections with active learning approaches.
  • The researchers say their findings held across all STEM disciplines and in class sizes and course levels of all sorts.

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