Trek Magazine - - Great Trekking -

For most of the last cen­tury, teach­ing was the same. A univer­sity lec­ture in 1920 did not look that dif­fer­ent from a lec­ture in 1980. A pro­fes­sor stepped up to the podium and im­parted wis­dom in a 45-minute mono­logue. Stu­dents took notes. The end.

Those days are long gone at UBC. The in­tro­duc­tion of the In­ter­net and the ad­vent of per­sonal com­put­ing have changed ev­ery­thing.

To­day, when Dr. Si­mon Bates holds a physics ses­sion for 300 un­der­grad­u­ates, they ar­rive hav­ing read and di­gested all the ma­te­rial in ad­vance. His role is fa­cil­i­tat­ing en­gage­ment, which in­cludes prob­lem solv­ing, spon­ta­neous ques­tions and dis­cus­sion in break­out groups. It’s called a “flipped class­room” and it has changed the post-sec­ondary learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment at UBC and trans­formed the stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence.

“If you were to para­chute into one of my lec­tures, you’d prob­a­bly think I’d lost con­trol of my class,” says Bates, Pro­fes­sor of Teach­ing in the De­part­ment of Physics and As­tron­omy, and Aca­demic Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Teach­ing, Learn­ing and Tech­nol­ogy. “It’s noisy, in­ter­ac­tive and slightly un­pre­dictable. I have a rough map of what I’d like to do, but I vary it. I spend time chal­leng­ing un­der­stand­ing, high­light­ing con­nec­tions or test­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to former UBC Pres­i­dent Stephen Toope, four fac­tors are driv­ing a warp-speed ac­cel­er­a­tion of learn­ing mod­els at UBC: a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how we learn, trans­for­ma­tive tech­nolo­gies, new de­mands for op­tions and the ris­ing costs of the tra­di­tional model.

First, thanks to ad­vances in cog­ni­tive sci­ence, we know more about how to design ef­fec­tive learn­ing. For ex­am­ple, re­search has shown that test­ing more of­ten teaches us to re­trieve in­for­ma­tion un­der stress and im­proves long-term mem­ory.

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