Thursday, September 15, 2011

Teaching and Learning--Recent Articles

Now that the semester is well underway, news articles about teaching and learning have been hitting my desk.  Let me share some significant reading material with you. 

When faculty ask for help engaging today's student, I frequently mention Eric Mazur's process of Peer Instruction.  When we want increase engagement and learning in class--particularly larger classes of 50, 100, or more--Mazur's approach can be very useful.  His process begins with giving students questions about the assigned reading that they answer before class.  Students also submit questions about concepts that they found difficult or confusing.  In class, the instructor addresses these questions and provides time for students who are now "getting it" to talk to each other.  

A recent article and video,"Don't Lecture Me," posted by American Radio Works (public media) gives one of the clearest explanations of this process and sets it in the context of teaching trends today.  Mazur's story of how he started to develop peer instruction is very interesting.  He describes a phenomena of student interaction that still amazes us.  When we ask students to turn to their neighbor and explain or discuss a problem or concept, the energy level in the room just explodes.  Just yesterday, a faculty member remarked on the noise level as students discussed a quiz.  It is quite a shock as we realize that they have been carefully restraining themselves in order to listen to the lecture, yet they have a lot to say.  As classroom managers of large groups of students, we might worry about what they are doing.  However, this discussion is extremely important in terms of understanding and long term retention.

If you are looking for the most comprehensive survey of recent teaching news, consult the recent Carnival by ProfHacker.  Post September 1, this blog lists a multitude of interesting teaching and learning articles, including but not limited to Chronicle articles.  I particularly recommend Cathy Davidson's essay on collaborative learning, as she expounds on students' collective imaginations, crowd-sourcing, and public grading.