At Thursday's joint xTalk/HHMI Education Group, Dr Sanjoy Mahajan led a lively exploration of different approaches to teaching and the impact of those approaches on long term learning and retention.
He contrasted the topical approach against that of teaching through modes of learning. In other words, instead of listing a set of topics to cover and systematically teaching them in sequence, Mahajan suggested the notion of teaching around modes of reasoning: looking for the main principles underlying a discipline and teaching problems and projects related to those principles.
To illustrate this, Mahajan presented the attendees with several problems and began the process of learning by crowd-sourcing the answers:
After polling the attendees for their attempt to answer the problem, Mahajan led them through a reasoning process that revealed the important concepts.
When Mahajan uses the technique of teaching through modes of reasoning, students are not always happy. They see themselves working mulpiple aspects of one problem, and are concerned that they are not exposed to other problems. However, assessment of learning gains for these students shows more solid understanding and better retention than their traditional counterparts.
Mahajan summarized the benefits of a pedagogy using modes of reasoning as one that:
In addition, Mahajan shared several other techniques that enhance learning:
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