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Does teaching skill matter?

Title: Does teaching skill matter in HE? A search for common lessons, and a selection of big and surprising effects in teaching innovations
Date/time: 4pm Friday 12 Nov 2010
Occasion: CAKES talk
Place: Top floor (level 5), Sir Alwyn Williams Building (Computing Science)
How to get there: Instructions
Presenter Steve Draper,   School of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

Slides: PDF
Related material:
Short page on the 3 roles of teaching


They say that 10% of the code in a typical program accounts for 90% of the execution time, so there will be little benefit from applying optimisations in most places: you need to focus on that 10% of the code where it will make a big difference. In HE, the question is: what kinds of improvements in what university teachers do actually make a large impact in learning outcomes? I will review a few of the biggest impacts recorded in the literature. A preliminary categorisation, I will argue, suggests that delivery skill has little impact, improved learning activities can have a major impact (e.g. Mazur nearly tripled the amount first year MIT students learned on his course by changing what they did in his lectures from listening to peer discussion), but the single largest published gain I have found (something like a 26,000 fold speed up in learning) involved the better articulation of the hidden "content": identifying and making explicit what it was that learners had to learn. Academics are full of defensive arguments for why this is bad: ("just spoon-feeding", "they just lack the aptitude to read my mind and do what I do", ....) Is it my imagination, or do these arguments resemble those used to defend a failure to improve the user interface ("I only want technically competent, intelligent people to use my wonderful software ...", "It's my job to create this leading edge functionality, it's someone else's problem to make it accessible to the riff-raff", ...)?

My answer then is that what teachers do sometimes makes a huge difference to learning in HE, but that delivery probably doesn't.

There is no need to book: just turn up.
Organised by Leif Azzopardi; Computing Science.

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