Home » 2015 Spring » Introduction; Discovery-Based Learning; Use of Textbooks

Introduction; Discovery-Based Learning; Use of Textbooks

Facilitators: Daniel Collins, Patrick Lloyd, Kristin Polizzotto

Attending: Grace Axler-DiPerte, Shoshanna Bobker, Dmitry Brogun, Daniel Collins, Christina Colon, Mara Gittleman, Jameelah Hegazy, Ivan Ho, Maria Karfitsas, Martin Litwack, Patrick Lloyd, John Mikalopas, Mary Ortiz, Kristin Polizzotto, Jewel Powell, Jen Rosseau, Tara Scannell, Steven Skinner, Farshad Tamari

1. Introduction of participants

2. Overview of today’s articles

Mighton, J. 2013. For the Love of Math, Scientific American Mind 24:60-67

Clark, R.E., Kirschner, P.A., & Sweller, J. 2012. Putting Students on the Path to Learning. American Educator Spring 2012:6-11

These two articles present somewhat different opinions on the value of direct instruction vs. discovery-based learning in terms of student success. After brief discussion, the group agreed that discovery-based learning is good for small groups, advanced students, and for teaching students how to think (as opposed to teaching basic concepts such as definitions or methodologies & techniques). Direct instruction is best for larger groups, beginning students, and the presentation of new concepts such as definitions, methodologies, and techniques.

3. Personal experiences with these instruction methods

Participants then shared their own impressions of these methods in their teaching at Kingsborough, summarized below:

  • POGIL (process-oriented guided inquiry learning)—some students understood concepts better (more deeply), but most were uncomfortable with this method and really wanted direct instruction

  • A mix of direct instruction followed by practice of the new concepts using discovery-based methods seemed to work best. Examples shared: the unknown microbe riddle (microbiology), figuring out how much of a certain food one must eat to get your RDI (nutrition).

  • Direct instruction helps when students struggle with independent reading. In a nursing class, 80% of the time might be spent on direct instruction, followed by 20% working in groups with each student assigned the role of a specific clinician, and working together to write a treatment plan & rationale.

  • One challenge is to break the topics into smaller steps (modules). Each module may consist of some initial direct instruction followed by practice using some sort of active learning strategy. How can an instructor figure out what these modules should be? One way is to compare various textbooks and see what the consensus seems to be, or use outlines to structure the learning.

  • The question arose as to what is the most effective split of classroom time between direct instruction and discovery-based learning. The group felt that this depended on the assessment methods in the class. If the grades are mainly based on tests of knowledge of concepts, more direct instruction is helpful. If tests focus on problem-solving and how to think, more discovery-based learning is helpful.

4. Use of textbooks

Some discussion ensued as to the value of textbooks in the learning process, including discussion of adaptive technology developed by publishers that has begun to replace textbooks in some cases. Traditional textbooks align with the direct instruction model, while some newer technologies align more closely with discovery-based learning. Math and science are traditionally textbook-driven, but this is changing. Concepts and definitions are often embedded in examples rather than defined in columns of text. While it seems to be true that consumers (students) would prefer not read traditional textbooks, it is less clear at this point whether such adaptive technologies lead to greater student success. This will be an interesting avenue of research in the near future.

5. Synthesis and conclusions

We then discussed how best to integrate direct instruction and discovery-based learning in our classrooms for our particular students. The following comments and suggestions were made:

  • In some way, compel students to read or review concepts before class discussion (such preparation must have points attached to it somehow, or they will not usually do it).

  • Begin the class with questions about previously discussed topics, on which the new tpoics will build.

  • STEM classes of necessity must work at the application level of Bloom’s taxonomy. The knowledge level is critical as a foundation, but there’s never a time in a STEM career when that is enough on its own. So application of concepts must occur at some point in the course.

  • Understanding and application exercises should follow the knowledge stage as soon as possible, immediately when possible.

  • Make concepts “real” to make them stick and be meaningful to students.

6. Next meeting

  • Monday 4/20 12:40-1:40, room TBA (M-391 is not big enough for so many participants)

  • Check the STEM FIG wiki for links to articles (from past and future meetings)

  • Minutes from each meeting will also be posted on the wiki (http://kctlstemfig.pbworks.com)

  • For the next meeting, we plan to discuss articles outlining specific strategies that have been proven successful for STEM students, on the basis of evidence (pedagogical research). Links to these articles will be posted on the wiki, and emailed to participants ahead of time.

Minutes submitted by K. Polizzotto


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