How do Students Learn?

At this point in the term, many professors perceive a too great a sense of routine displayed in their classroom, and are seeking energize their teaching. But where do we start? Perhaps some research published several years ago by D.G. Treichler*, which found that students learn:

  • 10% of what they read;
  • 20% of what they hear;
  • 30% of what they see;
  • 50% of what they both see and hear;
  • 70% of what they discuss with people whose opinions they value;
  • 80% of what they personally experience; and
  • 90% of what they teach to other people.

The implication of these findings are compelling, especially for those who rely too much on lecture as their primary tool of instruction:

  • Lecture less;
  • Use more audio-visual aids, including computer-generate graphics, when lecture is necessary;
  • Provide frequent opportunities for students to solve problems and discuss issues in small groups, where they will feel less inhibited;
  • Integrate personal reflections on course issues into your curriculum, through journalizing assignments and essay questions on examinations;
  • Provide opportunities for students to teach each other, by encouraging the formation of study groups, and more presentations, especially the less-threatening panel discussions, role playing, and debate formats.

Your integration of these approaches into your teaching will not only insure better retention of the course material, but make your role more interesting and rewarding.

* Treichler, D.G. (1967). Are you missing the boat in training aids? Audio-visual communications. New York: United Business Publications.

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