side bar
logo
Saturday, September 22, 2018

Opinion

Alternative instructional methods in college classrooms will increase learning


Ineffective Teaching Pattern

Francis Emelogu // The Daily Cougar

The words “college” or “university” bring to mind a large auditorium filled with hundreds of students, tiny desks and a professor lecturing at the front of the room, possibly accompanied by a PowerPoint that may or may not be helpful.

While this is the idea of a traditional college classroom, lecturing may not be the best way for students to engage in learning and retain information. Although professors speak passionately about the subject they are teaching, lecturing is passive learning for students.

According to the Washington Post, many institutions of higher education are reforming lectures to make students’ learning more active. One way colleges are doing this is by reformatting large lecture classes and breaking them down into smaller ones. The Washington Post reports that American, Catholic, George Washington universities and the University System of Maryland are dividing their 200-student lectures into 50-student studios and 20-student seminars.

UH’s history department has implemented a similar reform. Both sections of history required by the core curriculum are now taught as both a lecture and a lab. The large lecture course of over 100 students is broken down into smaller lab sections of about 25 students, allowing for discussion about the lecture content.

Curriculum and instruction professor Lee Mountain believes this change is a more effective method of instruction.

“People would learn better if there was mixed methodology,” Mountain said.

Mountain spoke about the nature of the college lecture structure and how it differs from instruction at the primary and secondary levels of education.

“Some people say that students who become teachers love kids as much as the subject matter, so they want to present their subject matter in ways that appeals to the kids,” Mountain said. “Maybe professors love their subject matter a little more, and they expect students to pick up by osmosis how wonderful it is.”

“I think lectures are definitely an important part of the learning process; however, there should be another aspect that accompanies it to reinforce the ideas from the lecture,” said biology senior Anum Khan.

Experts say that professors can improve the lecture model by making lectures more active through questioning, pair discussions and instant surveys such as using clicker questions or using websites like polleverywhere.com, which allows the user to make a poll in which participants text in their answers.

Health senior Chad Henderson said the lack of application could be the problem with lectures and that class discussions could be beneficial.

“It depends on how interested (students) are,” Henderson said. “You have to take core classes, but when people choose the classes they want, you have more opinions.”

Khan mentioned options that were available in some of her classes that helped her learn best.

“I have had other professors use different methods like clickers and pop quizzes, and it was quite helpful,” Khan said. “One professor actually had us watch lecture PowerPoints before class to introduce to the concepts and we would do problem solving in lecture. That was a really good way to practice the concepts that we were learning.”

There are other options for stepping away from standard lecturing methods. For example, in Mountain’s reading and writing education classes, one way that she deviates from the typical lecture format is by having students move around the classroom.

“Some people say that students who become teachers love kids as much as the subject matter, so they want to present their subject matter in ways that appeals to the kids,” Mountain said. “Maybe professors love their subject matter a little more, and they expect students to pick up by osmosis how wonderful it is.”

“People don’t like to sit still in an adult education course,” Mountain said. “No matter where you take one, it’s expected that you’re not going to sit there and absorb a lecture.”

Taking classroom discussions a step further, she asks students to stand in different parts of the room to reflect their opinion on a certain topic. Mountain believes that this method can be used in any discipline.

“Opinions occur in every class. If you agree, go to the right, if you disagree go to the left, if you have no idea how to answer the question, go to the middle,” Mountain said. “Couldn’t that be done in history when you weigh the repercussions of the war between the states? Couldn’t it be done in science? You’re making a hypothesis at the beginning of an experiment.”

Professors are experts in their field and they know what they are talking about when giving a lecture. Depending on the class and the professor, the lecture may be boring or interesting for different students. While lecturing may be necessary at times — particularly when introducing material that students have no prior knowledge about — alternative methods to lecturing are not only feasible, but worthwhile.

Class discussions are one way to foster active learning among students, whether it means talking to someone beside them or moving to different parts of the room to show their perspective, discussion enables students to learn from each other.

It is also likely that students will bring a digital device to class, which professors can use to their advantage rather than asking for those devices to be put away. Instead of simply showing a presentation, professors may opt to include questions for the class or embed videos relevant to that day’s topic.

To make learning active and relevant for students, we need to move beyond the lecture.

Opinion columnist Rama Yousef is a creative writing senior and may be reached at [email protected]

Tags: ,


Back to Top ↑