Lectures Aren't Just Boring, They're Ineffective, Too, Study Finds

Active learning methods give a half standard deviation better results than lecture.

... analyzed 225 studies of undergraduate STEM teaching methods. The meta-analysis, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-hal... “The change in the failure rates is whopping,” Freeman says. And the exam improvement—about 6%—could, for example, “bump [a student’s] grades from a B– to a B.”

Although there is no single definition of active learning approaches, they include asking students to answer questions by using handheld clickers, calling on individuals or groups randomly, or having students clarify concepts to each other and reach a consensus on an issue.

Freeman says he’s started using such techniques even in large classes. “My introductory biology course has gotten up to 700 students,” he says. “For the ultimate class session—I don’t say lecture—I’m showing PowerPoint slides, but everything is a question and I use clickers and random calling. [emphasis mine]

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