UCTL/Interactive Teaching in Physics
Strengths of Interactive teaching
1. Strengths of interactive teaching The students commented that the perceived strengths of the interactive teaching approach were:
1. Cognitive processing All of the 14 students mentioned that the interactive teaching approach had promoted their engagement in thinking about physics concepts, which was very different from their learning experience in high school. For example:
You are very different from my high school teacher because you always give us a couple of minutes to think about and discuss the concept questions. A better learning outcome cannot be obtained by letting the lecturer keep "dumping" something on us as our high school teacher did. We need time for thinking, not just for copying notes and memorizing formulas. (S1)
2. Concentration and retention Almost all of the students (13 of the 14) thought that the interactive teaching was beneficial to concentration and retention in class; for example:
I have been hyperactive since childhood. This problem usually makes me feel uneasy sitting in class, and I have difficulty concentrating for more than ten minutes. But in your class, you allow us to participate in many different learning activities. This can help me a lot by drawing my attention to the lesson and making it easy to keep concentrating. (S7)
3. Identification of misconceptions Four of the 14 students said that the interactive teaching provided opportunities to challenge their understanding of the physics concepts and helped them identify their misconceptions; for example:
Sometimes when I was explaining concepts to my partners, I can find that there are some mistakes in my prior understanding of the concepts. This is the advantage of (small group) discussion. (S3)
4. Shifting focus from teaching to learning Seven students commented that the ITP has shifted the focus of teaching from the teacher and teaching materials to the learners and learning outcomes. For example:
Teaching should be like yours, which is more concerned about our learning (than your teaching), not just keep talking on your own. The focus of the class should be the students not the teacher. (S10)
5. Teachers as learning facilitators Nine students were asked, in the interviews, if they felt that the lecturer was lazy using the teaching time for students to work by themselves, and all of them gave an answer of "no", without hesitation; for example:
S7: Your teaching always gives us time to think. Researcher: Have you ever thought that I am not committed to my teaching, because I don't keep teaching all the time (but give time for you to think and discuss)? S8: Not at all. It is good to let us discuss, not just about the answers, but also the reasons. S7: The time (for thinking and discussing) is worthwhile. Whether a teacher is committed to teaching or not depends on how much time s/he has spent on preparing and designing the teaching, not on keep talking in class. I believe that you have spent a lot of time preparing for your (intervention) teaching, because your teaching (style) is so different from other classes. The (focus of the) class (activity) should belong to the students not the teacher.
The ITP students' responses did not always agree with some other studies. For example, in Banerjee and Vidyapati's (1997)24 study, they found that some students felt that they would not need the teacher anymore, since they felt they could learn by group discussion. 6. Teach less and learn more Most interviewees (12 of the 14) noted that the interactive teaching approach could be harmful to content coverage, but they also emphasized that the teaching is beneficial to them in enhancing their understanding of the concepts, and thus they learnt more from the interactive teaching approach. For example:
Yes, you teach less with this kind of (interactive) teaching, because you have spent time to let us think and discuss;... but we understand more. (S11) I don't think this (interactive) activity is wasting teaching time and that the pace becomes too slow. Comprehension of some physics principles is more important than content coverage. (S6) On the surface, interactive teaching may make students feel that they have learnt less than through traditional teaching. The traditional way always keeps teaching, so it can teach more. But it is just a kind of "baby-feeding". The focus should be on how much we learnt, not how much the teacher taught. (S9)
Responses from the ITP students indicate that they are aware of the need to participate in the learning process in a physics class. The above statements agree with the findings of some researchers in university physics from western countries, who highlight the advantages of an interactive teaching approach in promoting learning engagement25.
The above quotes show that while the intervention students expressed their appreciation of the interactive teaching approach, they also strongly criticized the traditional didactic teaching experienced in high school.