Authors: Symonds, Matthew R. E.
Source: HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT, 33 (6):1221-1231 NOV 2 2014.
Brief summary of the paper: Institutes of higher learning are tending to reduce the amount of face-to-face teaching that they offer, and particularly through the traditional pedagogical method of lecturing.
There is ongoing debate about the educational value of lectures as a teaching approach, in terms of both whether they facilitate understanding of subject material and whether they augment the student educational experience.
In this study, student evaluation of teaching scores plus academic outcome (percentage of students who fail) was assessed for 236 course units offered by a science faculty at an Australian university over the course of one year.
These measures were related to the degree to which lectures and other face-to-face teaching were used in these units, controlling for factors such as class size, school and year level.
An information-theoretic model selection approach was employed to identify the best models and predictors of student assessments and fail rates. All the top models of student feedback included a measure reflecting amount of face-to-face teaching, with the evaluation of quality of teaching being higher in units with higher proportions of lectures.
However, these models explained only 12-20% of the variation in student evaluation scores, suggesting that many other factors come into play. By contrast, units with fewer lectures have lower failure rates.
These results suggest that moving away from lectures and face-to-face teaching may not harm, and indeed may improve the number of students who pass the subject, but that this may be incurred at the expense of greater dissatisfaction in students’ learning experience.