By Sean Preuss, APTES Instructor.

Historically, teachers get information to students by lecturing. I can see why. It’s direct. Also, as educators, we are confident in ourselves, believing we can phrase the message the right way…the way that will help it stick.

However, lecturing is an ineffective way to learn. “The Learning Pyramid,” coming from the research of National Training Laboratories, states that people retain only five percent of what they hear in lectures. I think Bryan University students are no different. If we tell them what they need to know, they don’t seem to “get it.” The students need to get the information from other sources and need to use it in some way (e.g. discuss it or teach it).

I had this epiphany over the summer. I was teaching FIT 108, Weight Management, and gave what I believed to be a fantastic lecture. At the end, I asked a few questions that would test the students’ knowledge of the day’s content. They couldn’t answer the questions. They couldn’t think critically about the messages. That night, I decided I was finished with lecturing.

From that point until present day, I don’t lecture. I find ways for students to get the information from any source but me and then talk about it in class.  I use a number of different resources including YouTube videos, textbook excerpts, outside articles, and students explaining concepts to each other.

Slide from Sean's class presentation. Photo: "Working Wirelessly" by CCBY.

Slide from Sean’s class presentation. Photo: “Working Wirelessly” by CCBY.

How does this work in a class? My most common session model follows this format:

  • In the beginning, there is a slide with topics for today’s learning
  • Each student uses the polling option to choose what topic is most appealing (having the opportunity to choose helps a student feel empowered and increases the likelihood that the content will be viewed)
  • I provide a short list of the important points to take notes on in each reading or video
  • We break for 5-10 minutes while the students watch or read the content
  • After the break, we go through slides that have a few questions, matching columns, or scenarios that allow the students to demonstrate what they learned
  • During this, the instructor merely functions as a conversation facilitator and asks questions

Slide from Sean's class presentation. Photo: "Hking in the Scapegoat Wilderness" by Forest Service Northern Rim.

Slide from Sean’s class presentation. Photo: “Hking in the Scapegoat Wilderness” by Forest Service Northern Rim.

As a result, the students provide the answers, discuss the concepts, and teach each other. I sometimes tie points together, but asking the right questions generally elicits all of the information that I hope to cover without giving the information myself.

Overall, that’s the point: to have the students absorb the information well-enough to present it themselves. Does this approach work? I haven’t compared my grades to other instructors, but students have commented in emails and surveys that they learned and enjoyed the discussions.