Beyond Lecture: Active Learning Strategies That Work: The Active Learning Approach Can Facilitate the Learning of Class Content, as Well as Eventually Equip Students with the Tools to Learn on Their Own

By Shakarian, Diana C. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, May-June 1995 | Go to article overview

Beyond Lecture: Active Learning Strategies That Work: The Active Learning Approach Can Facilitate the Learning of Class Content, as Well as Eventually Equip Students with the Tools to Learn on Their Own


Shakarian, Diana C., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Today, many secondary school physical educators find them-selves teaching in classrooms. Whether this is the result of changing curriculum trends, the influx of health and fitness programs, split departmental teaching assignments, or school budgetary constraints, the point remains that for many physical educators teaching is no longer confined to the blacktop, playing field, or gymnasium. Effectively adapting to these changes in content and teaching environment has required physical educators to increase their repertoire of instructional skills. While the traditional lecture approach, in which teachers talk and students listen, has long been the foundation of our classroom instructional strategies, its effectiveness in creating meaningful student learning is questionable.

The traditional lecture method may not be the most effective teaching strategy for several reasons. First, lecture, by its very nature, creates a predominantly passive learning experience where students generally are exposed to information, yet rarely are given the opportunity to process it. As memory research suggests (e.g., Belles, 1988; Craik & Lockhart, 1972), it is the deep and active processing of information that increases the likelihood of recalling it later. In this respect, students need to reflect on, relate to, and examine concepts as they are presented. This is unlikely to occur in traditional lecture classes where the constant stream of information leaves students scrambling to take accurate notes.

Second, maintaining high levels of attention and sharp listening skills over the course of a lecture may be a problem for many students. Studies (Lloyd, cited in Penner, 1984; Stuart & Rutherford, 1978) suggest that students' attention is greatest during the first 10 to 15 minutes of a lecture, after which there is a sharp and continuous drop until the final minutes of class. With this type of listening pattern, it is reasonable to expect a commensurate drop in the amount of lecture information that will appear in students' notes. Moreover, if students use their notes as a primary study strategy when preparing for class exams, information gleaned from those notes may be incomplete. This type of listening pattern may produce a typical primacy-recency effect (Craik, 1970), where students may only be able to accurately recall information that was presented at the very beginning and very end of a lecture.

Third, there are popular misconceptions about the quality of the lecture method itself. These arguments typically fall into the "more equals better" or "teaching equals learning" categories, and imply that the traditional lecture approach is more effective than other teaching methods in transmitting information (especially large amounts). Research has shown, however, that this is not necessarily the case (see for reviews, Bligh, 1972; Costin, 1972; Penner, 1984). In fact, the lecture approach has been found to be " ... no more effective in transmitting information than other teaching methods" (Bonwell & Eison, 1991), and is actually less effective than discussion methods when one considers "... measures of retention of information after the end of a course, measures of transfer of knowledge to new situations, ... measures of problem-solving, thinking, ... attitude change, or motivation for further learning ..." (McKeachie, 1980, p. 26).

Finally, the traditional lecture method is ill-suited for meeting many of today's broader educational objectives. In an age where greater emphasis is placed on teaching students how to learn, using critical and creative thinking skills, stimulating writing across the curriculum, and cultivating independent, yet cooperative, learners, it is questionable whether the use of the traditional lecture method can accomplish any of these goals. For this reason, and the others listed, educators are challenging the traditional lecture method and advocating the increased use of active learning strategies in the classroom (e. …

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Beyond Lecture: Active Learning Strategies That Work: The Active Learning Approach Can Facilitate the Learning of Class Content, as Well as Eventually Equip Students with the Tools to Learn on Their Own
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