For decades, students have received a lecture-style of education, where teachers feed them material they expect them to absorb — but newer styles of teaching, from project-based learning to short studying sessions, may actually help students grasp and understand material more concretely.
The Hechinger Report, examined mechanical engineer Sanjay Sarma’s work at MIT’s Open Learning, focused on breaking up traditional modes of learning with a particular interest in how students move information from their short-term memory into their long-term memory.
While requiring more work from educators, instruction that packages material into short lessons, where teachers jump from topic to topic, may be a more effective teaching style.
A hopscotched-style of teaching sounds counter-intuitive to learning, as jumping from one topic to another seems like a recipe for a shallow classroom experience.
Yet this “distributed concept” style of teaching is gaining interest as a learning method. A 2016 study out of Kent State University found that blending information that’s been taught in different lectures resulted in better exam results. Linking the concepts seemed to help students have better recall when in a testing environment.
Curriculum isn’t usually created this way. Administrators often think of courses as linear, teaching a subject in chronological order. Certainly, mixing things up, so to speak, would require more of a time investment from educators, who would need to find links between different topics.
But just tossing subjects together isn’t enough. Students taught in this way would also need to ramp up their focus rather than letting their brains go into autopilot. But the results may be worth the effort.