05 August 2009

Interactive Engagement vs. Traditional Methods

A study of 6,542 students (Hake, 1998) who took introductory physics courses in high schools, colleges and universities was conducted to compare the effectiveness of interactive engagement in the classroom as compared to traditional lecture style presentations. Not surprisingly, the average gain (measured as per Halloun-Hestenes Mechanics Diagnostic test, Force Concept Inventory, and Mechanics Baseline test) due to interactive engagement delivery is significantly higher than traditional courses.

In another paper by Hake (1997), he lists several interactive engagement methods that have been used successfully for teaching physics. These include collaborative Peer Instruction, microcomputer-based labs, concept tests, modeling, active learning problem sets or overview case studies, physics-education-research based text or no text, and socratic dialogue inducing labs.

It should be noted that interactive engagement is "necessary but not sufficient for marked improvement over traditional methods" (Hake, 1997) since there are a number of colleges which have marginal gain even when interactive engagement activities were used.

I like the Epilogue that Hake included in his 1997 article:

I am deeply convinced that a statistically significant improvement would occur if more of us learned to listen to our students....By listening to what they say in answer to carefully phrased, leading questions, we can begin to understand what does and does not happen in their minds, anticipate the hurdles they encounter, and provide the kind of help needed to master a concept or line of reasoning without simply "telling them the answer."....Nothing is more ineffectually arrogant than the widely found teacher attitude that ’all you have to do is say it my way, and no one within hearing can fail to understand it.’....Were more of us willing to relearn our physics by the dialog and listening process I have described, we would see a discontinuous upward shift in the quality of physics teaching. I am satisfied that this is fully within the competence of our colleagues; the question is one of humility and desire.
Arnold Arons, Am. J. Phys. 42, 157 (1974)

I often wonder whether this applies to Computer Science. Afterall, don't we know pretty well how our students think? ... or do we?


Hake, Richard. (1997). "Interactive engagement methods in introductory mechanics courses". Retrieved on August 6, 2009 from http://www.physics.indiana.edu/~sdi/IEM-2b.pdf.

Hake, Richard. (1998). "Interactive-engagement versus Traditional Methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses". American Association of Physics Teacher. 66(1), pp64-74.

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