Lectures Confine the Mind
July 10, 2012 1 Comment
Harvard Magazine has a lengthy piece about professor Eric Mazur’s mission to do away with the college lecture and introduce more interactive learning. It’s a mission that should have been launched ages ago. Whether the innovation is discovery learning, more group discussions, or a “flipped” classroom, almost any alternative is an improvement over a standard lecture.
Lectures have become so institutionalized that people often overlook the simplest reason they’re terrible. The mind is supposed to wander. People don’t naturally learn by listening to others, they learn by following their own thoughts and constructing their own knowledge. But during a live lecture a person has to dedicate so many cognitive resources to following the professor that thoughts are nipped in the bud.
Adding a “pause” button can make it possible to pursue any hint of inspiration. Just stop the lecture, Google what you’re thinking about until you either get bored or have a real insight, and then go back to the video. Any developing thought can be pursued to your satisfaction. Students working in groups may not be able to literally pause the conversation, but without an authority figure guiding their learning they have also have more freedom to pursue cognitive impulses. Obviously it will always be important to ensure that students learn certain concepts, but the more we can let minds weave their own path the better off students will be.