kitchen table math, the sequel: "How Social Science Research Can Improve Teaching"

Monday, February 18, 2013

"How Social Science Research Can Improve Teaching"

We marshal discoveries about human behavior and learning from social science research and show how they can be used to improve teaching and learning. The dis- coveries are easily stated as three social science generalizations: (1) social connections motivate, (2) teaching teaches the teacher, and (3) instant feedback improves learning. We show how to apply these generalizations via innovations in modern information technology inside, outside, and across university classrooms. We also give concrete examples of these ideas from innovations we have experimented with in our own teaching.
How Social Science Research Can Improve Teaching
Gary King and Maya Sen
Haven't read, just passing the link along.

The first paragraph is not promising, though:
Humans have theorized how to teach for thousands of years and update the substance of what we teach almost every year. Yet generations have passed without any major im- provements in the procedures and style of teaching in our classrooms. If your great-great- grandparents went to college, they probably sat in a classroom with all the other students facing forward, trying to look attentive, while the professor professed. If you’re professor at a university today, you probably lecture to the same sea of students, all still trying to look like they’re paying attention. To be sure, you may use some newer technologies (electricity, radio, TV, whiteboards, powerpoint slides, etc.), you may have added a few group activities, and you perhaps teach a seminar with lots of discussion. But if your ancestors were to walk into a classroom today, they’d know where to sit, what to do, and how to act. Our methods of teaching have changed very little.
In fact, a large body of research on teaching, learning, and memory exists, and a precision teaching classroom does not look like an ordinary classroom. Moreover, the difference between "group activities" and lecture is quite large and should not be shrugged off.

Papers like these remind me of the old saying in Hollywood: Everyone's a writer.

When it comes to the schools, everyone's an expert.

It's never a good sign when authors take as self-evidently true the blanket assertion that schools today are the same as they have always been.


ChemProf said...

Yeah, it isn't impressive. I read it earlier, when a colleague of mine sent it around. Basically at attempt by academics to stay relevant, but they don't really know anything about teaching per se. They are really focussed on improving MOOCs more than anything else.

They are talking specifically about college teaching, though, which has changed less than K-12.

(Also, I think you forgot to actually link to the article.)

Anonymous said...

Every time they start talking about how primitive it is to have all the students facing forward while the professor talks I start to get worried. There's a slippery slope that ends at constructionist math.

Gather and blather.

Catherine Johnson said...

Gather and blather.


chemprof- thanks for the catch - link is in - & thanks for the reaction. I'm going to put this one on the bottom of the pile.

You're right that college teaching hasn't changed as much...although there are an awful lot of online courses these days (at my college, anyway) and that is an enormous change.