Science educators say active learning in college science classes makes it more likely students will do well in class and pick science as a career.
Learning science by doing it has long been practiced by teachers in K-12 schools. Science educators think it should be more common in college classrooms, too.
A story in the academic journal Science Careers describes how “active learning,” as it’s called, is used in some Seattle University classes. The story highlights Vicky Minderhout Thorsell, a Seattle University professor who won a national teaching award in 2011 for the innovative way she teaches biochemistry.
Minderhout Thorsell uses little, if any, time for class lectures, instead plunging her students right into a guided inquiry form of learning about science at the start of class.
Jennifer Frederick, executive director of the Yale University Center for Teaching and Learning, told Science Careers that there’s good evidence that active learning works better than the traditional lecture. She recommends that faculty members take small steps toward shifting a class from the lecture model to an active-learning one.
The magazine says that active learning can result in lower failure rates and encourage more students to choose science as a career. And because faculty get continuous feedback about student progress, they know which concepts are giving students trouble immediately, rather than after the final exam is graded.