Excellent piece in the New York Times last week, explaining MIT’s decision to shift its introductory physics class from an all-lecture format to small groups collaboration and problem-solving. MIT calls the new approach TEAL: Technology Enhanced Active Learning.
At M.I.T., two introductory courses are still required — classical mechanics and electromagnetism — but today they meet in high-tech classrooms, where about 80 students sit at 13 round tables equipped with networked computers.
Instead of blackboards, the walls are covered with white boards and huge display screens. Circulating with a team of teaching assistants, the professor makes brief presentations of general principles and engages the students as they work out related concepts in small groups.
Teachers and students conduct experiments together. The room buzzes. Conferring with tablemates, calling out questions and jumping up to write formulas on the white boards are all encouraged.
Why is this good news for high school students?
It is good news for 21st century K-12 schooling because too often we think we need to teach high school students via lecture because that is what they do in college: if it is how they learn in college classes, it is how they ought to learn in college preparatory classrooms goes the (faulty) logic. But change is in the air.
MIT professors explain in the NY Times article that by making this shift, they are improving both the student failure rate (cut in half, from 10% to 4%), and the attendance rate, which is up dramatically.