University of Vermont's med school will discontinue lectures
- Medical students at the University of Vermont’s Lerner College of Medicine will no longer be taught in a lecture setting, according to William Jeffries, a dean at the school, who says evidence indicates students retain and understand information offered during instruction better in an “active learning” setting.
- Jeffries told NPR neuroscience research indicates that students must not only take in information, but also make sense of it in a way that is easily retained if needed in the future. Chances of students remembering increases if students are required to apply that information to a task, as students in the school will have to do.
- Jeffries said there was initially some pushback from professors who were fond of the lecture approach, but he said they were receptive to change once informed that active learning procedures actually are more beneficial to fledging students.
Jeffries’ advocacy for the active learning model mirrors the increased personalization of learning that has become increasingly popular among higher ed and K-12 education experts. The movement is also helped along considerably by tech advancements which can lead to blended learning opportunities, offering more customization for students' learning processes. Higher ed administrators should see the transition as an opportunity for a form of rebranding of the college or university among potential student applicants; it is possible that the school which stresses hands-on, innovative classroom instruction in lieu of lecture presentations might see an influx of interest from students seeking something different.
One particular challenge for higher ed institutions will be to ensure that the downsides of lecture-based instruction are not repeated in online learning courses, which, if conducted in a certain way, could amplify some of the issues Jeffries raised in his critique of lectures. A move towards “customizable assignments” seems like one method to resemble the active learning that can make in-person instruction so beneficial, with some supporters saying online learning could involve asking students to take a photo or interview someone utilizing concepts embedded in the lecture. However, as online learning continues to evolve, and educators seek ways to avoid the potential pitfalls of lecture instruction, administrators must support their staff's experimentation in finding what works best for online learning, and not necessarily how best to mirror the benefits of in-person instruction.