15 Feb 2005 ............... Length about 800 words (7,000 bytes).
This is a WWW document maintained by
Steve Draper, installed at http://www.psy.gla.ac.uk/~steve/ilig/il.html.
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as part of the Interactive Lectures website)
A summary or introductory page on interactive lectures.
To improve the learning outcomes. [The positive way of putting it.]
Because there is no point in having lectures or class meetings UNLESS they are
interactive. Lectures may have originated before printing, when reading a
book to a class addressed what was then the bottleneck in learning and teaching:
the number of available books. Nowadays, if one-way monologue transmission
is what's needed, then books, emails, tapes will do that, and do it better
because they are self-paced for the learner. [The negative way of putting it.]
Whenever it makes a difference that the learners are co-present with the teacher
and each other. This might be because the learners act differently, or think
differently; or because the teacher behaves differently.
In fact it is not enough to be different: it should be better than the
alternatives. Learners are routinely much more interactive with the material
when using books (or handouts) than they can be with lectures: they read at
their own pace, re-read anything they can't understand, can see the spelling
of peculiar names and terms, ask other students what a piece means, and carry
on until they understand it rather than until a fixed time has passed. All of
these ordinary interactive and active learning actions are impossible or
strongly discouraged in lectures.
So for a lecture to be interactive in a worthwhile sense, what occurs must
depend on the actions of the participants (not merely on a fixed agenda), and
benefit learning in ways not achieved by, say, reading a comparable textbook.
One method is the
paper: have students write out the answer to a
question for just one minute, and collect the answers for response by the
teacher next time.
Another method is to use a voting system: put
up a multiple choice question, have all the audience give an anonymous answer,
and immediately display the aggregated results.
Another method is "Just in time teaching", where students are required both to
read the material and to submit questions on it in advance, thus allowing the
contact time to be spent on what they cannot learn for themselves.
In fact there are many methods.
In brief, there are three distinct classes of benefit that may be obtained by
- Directly for the learners e.g. by eliciting (re)processing of the content,
which deepens understanding and lengthens retention; and by getting feedback
that shows them what they do and do not understand to guide study later.
- Directly for the teacher: getting feedback that allows them to improve
what they do. This may be explicit ("Do you want me to go slower?") or
implicit by asking content questions, and inferring from the answers what
needs more attention.
- True interaction.
Independently of private benefits to the teacher and of private benefits to
the learners, there are the benefits of establishing real iterative
interaction. The defining difference is that the teacher doesn't just get
information from the learners' actions, but changes her own actions because
of it; and then learners change theirs and so on.
This iterative (to and fro) process:
- Achieves improved learning by converging on understanding even if initial
attempts fall short
- Makes the learners feel much better, as they perceive their actions making
- Truly adapts the teaching to the particular set of learners
- Improves the teaching much faster (at least from week to week, often from
minute to minute) than the standard course feedback (once a year) or a
textbook (once per edition i.e. every few years).
- Achieves true interaction, where what happens is fundamentally and
constructively contingent on the other parties.
The general benefits, and specific pedagogic issues, are very similar
regardless of the technique used. I have written about them in a number of
different places including:
The key underlying issues, roughly glossed by the broad term "interactivity",
- The amount of time learners spend thinking as opposed to waiting,
listening or taking dictation. This may be prompted by generating choices,
answers, and reasons for answers.
- Iteration: learners checking out their understanding repeatedly, then
improving it in the light of feedback from their last attempt.
- Contingent teaching: genuine teacher and learner interaction where both
parties' actions depend on what the other did last.
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