As a follow up to my post on teaching and technology, there is an interesting article in the Economist about teaching in the sciences. From the article it appears that the trial involved a form of problem based learning. In other words, less emphasis on ‘telling’ students about stuff and more emphasis on students working on problems to understand the material (and often learning as much or more from each other as from the lecturer).
The benefits of this form of teaching are pretty obvious to anyone who has taught a microeconomics course. Students often leave the lectures thinking they know the material (“The lecturer made the concepts seem really easy …”) but without the depth of understanding to apply the material (“… but the tutorial problems were really hard”). It is likely to apply equally to other ‘practical’ disciplines.
Monash is using PBL (problem based learning) in the Bachelor of Business at our Peninsula campus. This is a small cohort so it allows us to trial innovative teaching methods without ‘discriminating’ against some students – as would occur if there were cohorts being taught differently at one campus. I am confident that the PBL program is a better way to learn – but the results will really be shown in the exam results over the next few years. The Bachelor of Business is also taught at Caulfield and, for compulsory units, the exams will be the same over the two campuses. Of course, there is a self-selection issue as the students choose their program rather than a random trial. So I doubt we will get a paper in Science out of it – but we can always dream!