In this week's Science, a trio of investigators at the University of British Columbia reports its comparison of the amounts of learning students achieved under two different instructional approaches. "We measured the learning of a specific set of topics and objectives when taught by three hours of traditional lecture given by an experienced highly rated instructor and three hours of instruction given by a trained but inexperienced instructor" using a teaching method the authors call "deliberative practice." According to The Chronicle of Higher Education's Tushar Rae, what the team found is essentially that "postdocs can be trained to be more effective than senior instructors." Rae says that by using the deliberate practice method, two postdocs — study co-authors Louis Deslauriers and Ellen Schelew — each elicited improved learning and participation in the class compared with that obtained through the lecture method. In a teleconference with reporters this week, Deslauriers said that in applying deliberative practice, "the energy in the class and the excitement of the students makes for a great learning environment." In a comment to the Chronicle's story, reader ndpeterson says that the results of this study are "not so much about postdoc vs. professor, but about the difference in the style of teaching — you could have just as easily trained the professor and seen similar results."
Postdoc vs. Prof, or Approach vs. Approach?
May 13, 2011