The trend away from classes based on reading and listening passively to lectures, and toward a more active role for students, has its most profound effects on black students and those whose parents did not go to college, a new study of college students shows.As summarized by Richard Pérez-Peña, the study looked at students in introductory Biology classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and compared classes taught using traditional lectures and others using methods that "demanded more participation by students," including on-line exercises to complete before and after class.
Active learning raised average test scores more than 3 percentage points, and significantly reduced the number of students who failed the exams, the study found. The score increase was doubled, to more than 6 percentage points, for black students and first-generation college students.
For black students, that gain cut in half their score gap with white students. It eliminated the gap between first-generation students and other students.
This sort of finding will be no surprise to fans of the Gates Foundation's math and literacy investments or the K-12 research behind those strategies. Deep learning comes from wrestling knowledge hands on, in a productive struggle that lets each learner assemble a clear picture of how the content fits together and the skills can be combined to solve problems. Lectures, even brilliant ones, rarely engage students at the level that creates strong understanding.
--Posted By Susan Perkins Weston