Sunday, July 22, 2007

HigherEd Links

  • An interview with Harvard's Eric Mazur on teaching physics:

    Q. How do you teach undergraduate physics today?

    A. I have the students read the text before the lecture. This is standard practice in the humanities, but a heresy in science. I don’t know why. I think perhaps science professors like to “present” material.

    In my class, we talk about the applications of physics in everyday life. The lectures are broken up with these “concept tests,” where the students move into groups to work on a physics problem together. They talk, argue — they teach each other. After some discussion, they enter their answers into a computer that tabulates their collective response. From that, I can see if they’ve understood the topic before we move on.

    We don’t grade on a curve. Modern science is a cooperative endeavor.

  • Robert Frank's take on teaching economics: through stories.

    ... [T]here is no better way to master an idea than to write about it. Although the human brain is remarkably flexible, learning theorists now recognize that it is far better able to absorb information in some forms than others. Thus, according to the psychologist Jerome Bruner, children "turn things into stories, and when they try to make sense of their life they use the storied version of their experience as the basis for further reflection." He went on, "If they don't catch something in a narrative structure, it doesn't get remembered very well, and it doesn't seem to be accessible for further kinds of mulling over." Even well into adulthood, we find it easier to process information in narrative form than in more abstract forms like equations and graphs. Most effective of all are narratives that we construct ourselves.

  • Inside HigherEd: A provocative theory of merit:

    The research argues that colleges with competitive admissions, motivated by the desire to improve their rankings, have put steadily increasing emphasis on SAT scores in admissions decisions. While this shift in emphasis was taking place, the colleges were also increasing their reliance on affirmative action in admissions, especially with regard to black students who, on average, do not do as well as other groups on the SAT. Further, the research argues, if elite colleges abandoned the SAT, they could achieve levels of diversity similar to what they have now — without using affirmative action in admissions decisions. Not only that, the research goes on to say, but doing so would not result in a diminution of student quality.

  • NYTimes's Alan Finder reports on an interesting effort by American universities and colleges:

    Associations representing private colleges and universities, state universities and large research universities have been working to develop formats and common sets of statistics that would enable easy comparison on everything from class size to what students do after graduation.


  1. Anil P said...

    Forget about narratives, forgetting may actually help in seeing things differently.