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The Danger of Amazing Lectures (Harvard experiment)

Teachers spend a lot of time in 'teaching'. Students nod their heads and even enjoy the classes. While children may say that they have understood, there is a huge difference between perception and reality. The reality from this Harvard study will surprise you!

A Study was conducted by Louis Deslauriers, and co-authors at Harvard University, to study the effect of active learning and the traditional way.

A class was divided into two groups of Class A and Class B

In the 15 week experiment, a basic introductory physics chapter was taught for the first 11 weeks to the class. On the 12th week it was divided into two groups as class A and Class B.

Class A was taught with polished lectures, Class B was taught by asking questions

Students of Class A were taught by an experienced instructor who gave polished lectures. While students of Class B were nudged to think and question by being asked to solve problems.

Who enjoyed the learning: the group with amazing lectures or those who were nudged to think?

Post 15 weeks of the Study. All the students were surveyed and asked to agree or disagree with statements such as “I feel like I learned a lot from this lecture” and “I wish all my physics courses were taught this way.” Which of the two Classes do you think enjoyed the learning more?

Class A enjoyed more than Class B

When surveyed, Class A which who were taught with polished lectures from an experienced instructor enjoyed the learning more. Students such as Class A may love a story, a video or a theatrical demonstration while being taught, but are they really learning?

Which class do you think would have scored better?

The students were put to test post the learnings from the survey. Which class from A and B do you think would have scored better in it? Do you think the fantastic visuals or storytelling had helped group A learn better or is it Group B who has learned from being forced to think when questioned?

Class B  fared better than Class A

Surprisingly, Class B the group of students which was asked to solve problems fared better than Class A who were happy and thought they learned more from the amazing lectures. In reality, such these teaching methods as amazing lectures cause a delusion of learning. They fool students into believing that they are learning. They fool teachers into believing that they are teaching well. This massive delusion reduces the chances of learning even further.

Enjoyment doesn't mean the students are learning

Though, students of Class A enjoyed the lecture, and believed they were learning they did not learned better than Class B who were nudged to think and question what their learnings were. Thus, enjoyment doesn't mean the students are learning. Hard work and deep thinking is the key to better learnings.

Less effective vs More effective teaching methods

Open Door has always believed that children learn best when they are pushed to think. Children may find it hard (thinking is hard, after all) but that is the most effective way to learn. In every program that we offer to schools or to parents, we keep questioning and thinking at its core. Because if children are not thinking, then are they even learning?


Simran Rawat

Simran is a Marketing Associate at Open Door. She has been an illustrator of children's books and uses the power of design to improve children's education.

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