It is not necessary to convince teachers of active learning any more, it is now about improving the quality! (Dancy et al., 2024)

I haven’t read a lot of physics education research recently, but this article on how “Physics instructors’ knowledge and use of active learning has increased over the last decade but most still lecture too much” caught my eye.

Dancy et al. (2024) report on how physics teachers in the US report on their knowledge and use of active learning methods in 2019 compared to 2008. They find that in 2019, many more instructors report that they know about methods like peer instruction or just-in-time teaching, and that also a lot more people actually use those methods. And with spending more time on active learning, time spent lecturing is going down, and only 4% of teachers reported in 2019 that they tried active learning but then stopped and went back to lecturing again. However, Dancy et al. (2924) also find that the active learning methods most often reported as used a lot are also those closest to lecturing, not the ones that are most effective, and that only 36% of teachers spend more than the recommended 2/3rds of class time on active learning.

Dancy et al. (2004) recommend to academic developers to focus on convincing teachers to use more effective active learning methods, and to do that in more than 2/3rds of class time. It is not necessary any more to convince teachers of active learning, it is now about improving the quality! Also, we should shift research from focussing on active learning vs traditional lecture towards understanding how to optimize active learning.

I found this article very interesting as it confirms my gut feeling about how the conversation has changed also in the contexts I have worked in, from how using my A, B, C, D cards back in 2011 was new and unheard of at GFI (and I was also excited about having just discovered it), to now similar methods being used in almost all courses there (as I just saw in some survey data earlier this week). And I feel strongly that the call to changing conversations is the right way to go. Now that people are onboard with spending some (if still too little) time on things other than lecturing, how can we use that time in the best way? Also I am wondering how transferable the 2/3rds of time that should be spent on active learning are to other contexts (academic development, for example), and I want to do an inventory of all my courses now to see where I am actually at. I think overall I am past the 2/3rds, but looking at individual course sessions, maybe not always. And maybe I should aim for 2/3rds at least within every half day and not just overall?

Dancy, M., Henderson, C., Apkarian, N., Johnson, E., Stains, M., Raker, J. R., & Lau, A. (2024). Physics instructors’ knowledge and use of active learning has increased over the last decade but most still lecture too much. Physical Review Physics Education Research20(1), 010119.

Leave a Reply