A new study finds that 8th grade students in the U.S. score higher on standardized tests in math and science when their teachers allocate greater amounts of class time to lecture-style presentations than to group problem-solving activities. For both math and science, the study finds that a shift of 10 percentage points of time from problem solving to lecture-style presentations (for example, increasing the share of time spent lecturing from 60 to 70 percent) is associated with a rise in student test scores of 4 percent of a standard deviation for the students who had the exact same peers in both their math and science classes ...It seems clear to me that we do not learn as well when we're passive as when we're active. This study seems to argue the opposite. The article points to another article that goes deeper into the research; at the end of that one, they do say:
Newer teaching methods might be beneficial for student achievement if implemented in the proper way, but our findings imply that simply inducing teachers to shift time in class from lecture-style presentations to problem solving without ensuring effective implementation is unlikely to raise overall student achievement in math and science. On the contrary, our results indicate that there might even be an adverse impact on student learning.My take on any sociological research, which includes education research, is that there are too many variables involved to do really good research. What happens is that many researchers frame a question in a way that is bound to bias the results toward a conclusion they already favor.
But still, I'd like to be able to explain a result like this one.
I know from experience that teaching from one of the 'reform' (back when reform meant something else) calculus texts would have been very hard without getting trained. I was trying to find ways to change my teaching, and would have worked from the project-based 'reform' texts, but couldn't see how to do it. It became clear to me that you couldn't change the way math is taught by providing a good textbook. The way classrooms 'should' work has been imprinted on us through 16+ years of sitting in classrooms as students. It's pretty hard to do something different, and then to do that different thing well. So I do agree with their conclusion that newer teaching methods need to be implemented in 'the proper way', which involves lots of work retraining ourselves.
Jo Boaler has done lots of research on math education. I'd like to know what her take on this study is.
What do you think?
*EdNext is part of the Hoover Institution, which is a conservative think tank.