Friday, May 13, 2011

Should I Teach--Or "Facilitate"?

You can tell by the scare quotes which answer I think is correct. I genuinely honestly truly believe that I'm paid a moderate amount by the school district because I know a goodly amount of math and how to impart that knowledge to others, and the district would like it if I would so impart! That means I teach, not "facilitate learning". Additionally, I very much believe in being the "sage on the stage", not the "guide on the side"--and there's a new study that backs me up:
A new study finds that 8th grade students in the U.S. score higher on standardized tests in math and science when their teachers allocate greater amounts of class time to lecture-style presentations than to group problem-solving activities. For both math and science, the study finds that a shift of 10 percentage points of time from problem solving to lecture-style presentations (for example, increasing the share of time spent lecturing from 60 to 70 percent) is associated with a rise in student test scores of 4 percent of a standard deviation for the students who had the exact same peers in both their math and science classes – or between one and two months’ worth of learning in a typical school year.

Update: On a related, but not an opposite note:
Who's better at teaching difficult physics to a class of more than 250 college students: the highly rated veteran professor using time-tested lecturing, or the inexperienced graduate students interacting with kids via devices that look like TV remotes? The answer could rattle ivy on college walls.

A study by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, now a science adviser to President Barack Obama, suggests that how you teach is more important than who does the teaching.

He found that in nearly identical classes, Canadian college students learned a lot more from teaching assistants using interactive tools than they did from a veteran professor giving a traditional lecture. The students who had to engage interactively using the TV remote-like devices scored about twice as high on a test compared to those who heard the normal lecture, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

The interactive method had almost no lecturing. It involved short, small-group discussions, in-class "clicker" quizzes, demonstrations and question-answer sessions. The teachers got real-time graphic feedback on what the students were learning and what they weren't getting.


mazenko said...

Years ago, when I agreed to take on a student teacher, I first heard the term "learner facilitator" from the college's education department chair who introduced candidates that way at a meet and greet. And I mocked the term endlessly after that. In the classroom, I have always been a traditional, classical instructor, and am wary of "foo foo" education.

In my high school honors freshman English classes, I spend 3/4 of the year instructing my students on how to study literature as high school students, rather than the middle school language arts focus of simply reading and commenting on stories. We learn to analyze language and literature by focusing of diction, syntax, tone, mode/genre, allusion, allegory, rhetorical strategies, as well as thematic analysis. We also develop skills of rhetorical analysis in our writing, focusing of modes of literary analysis, style analysis, and argumentation.

In the final quarter of the year, I literally use the terms "sage of the stage" and "guide on the side," as well as "teacher/learner facilitator" when I expect them to put into practice the skills they have learned during the year. With the final works of the year - pieces such as Old Man and the Sea and Beowulf - the responsibility is on them. They lead discussion, research the scholarly work, develop a research assignment, and prepare for the final evaluation of their skills. Of course, I am there for guidance and will not let them miss an idea or perpetuate a misinterpretation. But they really need to walk the walk and put skills into practice. And the evaluation is literally weeks long.

The focus is on skill, not content, and they must apply the skills to all content. So, there is a time and place for "facilitating learning" in the classroom. That is true for my students as they work toward the AP language exam where the content is a mystery and they must be able to apply the skills I have "taught" them to any content. My pass rate of 94%, with more than 3/4 of students receiving 4s and 5s, validates the success of this model.

Darren said...

See, Mazenko? I knew we could get along! :-)

Not stuck in the past said...

How much clinical evidence would it take to move your beliefs? I suspect there is no amount. Your beliefs are based on tradition and personal bias. Evidence would be based on student achievement, alone. I'll speculate that you would dismiss such evidence in preference of your own firmly-held bias.

The tone of the linked article dismisses the human ingenuity that goes into developing robust clicker questions and guiding the interactions. Good discussion guides are hard to develop.

College lecture is a dying practice, and that's not all bad. It can be used to some effect at certain times. But it should be limited, with increased room allowed for more effective methods. Instruction is art and science, and should be fertile ground for innovation.

Darren said...

Clearly you need to work on reading comprehension, as there is nothing opposing about "lecture" and "clickers". In fact, I say the latter complements, not replaces, the former. This has nothing to do with "discovery learning", which *is* something I oppose on both demonstrated and logical grounds.

As I grow tired of personal attacks directed at me, I'll just call you an idiot and be done with it.