TITLE: Being There AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 15, 2008 9:15 AM DESC: ----- BODY: the film Being There I sometimes talk about lecture (say, here) as not being the optimal way for students to learn. That doesn't mean that I don't think it lecture has value at all. I still lecture, though I prefer to punctuate my disquisition with occasional problem breaks, during which students try out some idea. Without those breaks, the active learning they afford, and the feedback they can give students about where they stand, I sometimes wonder how much value being in class with me for seventy-five minutes has. It turns out that there is probably value even in "just listening". Mark Guzdial recently described work by a psychology grad student that explains the relationship between learning and reading text, hearing narration, and viewing images. Most people learn more efficiently when they hear an explanation while looking at text, code, or diagrams. If they read the same explanation while looking at the text, code, or diagrams, it will take them longer to learn the material to the same depth. So, coming to class and hearing a good lecture can be a good investment of time. It jump-starts the brain. Of course, the student still needs to read and work through problems at home later, too. Reading and solving problems give the mind an opportunity to rehearse and to process material more deeply. The result of listening to lecture followed by intense study can be a powerful form of learning. I encourage students to take advantage of all their modalities. Augmenting lecture with opportunities for practice and feedback gives them a strong combination of learning styles in class. Then, as often as I can, I provide students with written notes that contain both my explanations and the in-class exercises we did. This allows them to recall their in-class experience as much as possible. On the occasion when students really must miss class, they can get a flavor of what happened in class, but reading the notes is a poor substitute for experiencing the class live. Then, I assign readings from a text or other sources that supplements the material with cover in class with a different presentation. Finally, I ask students to do a significant amount of project work, which gives them the chance to learn how to do while exercising the knowledge of the material in ways that make connections in their minds. I hope that this multi-faceted approach maximizes student opportunities to learn deeply and come to appreciate what they learn. -----