Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Conversational Classroom in Canberra

Professor William Waite talked about his experience at University of Colorado in replacing lectures with discussion, in a technique he calls the "Conversational Classroom". Professor Waite emphasized the need for a carefully prepared "Agenda" outlining what would be covered in the course. Details of what was done with the course are available at the ITRP Home Page.

This reminded me very much of the materials which would be prepared for an online course and there could be benefit in a blended approach with online and classroom instruction combined. It was interesting that conventional class rooms and laboratories were used. This was an interesting contrast to the iCampus approach from MIT with its hi-tech TEAL rooms and mini-lectures. Professor Waite's approach may overcome some of the problems I found in running a 12 hour course on electronic document management for public servants.

Professor Waite will be in Canberra until Friday and is in Australia for several more days. He is available to discuss educational issues. Contact Dr Malcolm Newey at ANU for details.
Conventional wisdom states that the large lecture class is an efficient way to teach a common core of material to large numbers of introductory students. We questioned that model, and chose a required second-year course with enrollments in the 60-120 range to test a classroom strategy that dispenses with the lecture entirely. Instead, each class session consists of a conversation among the students and professor. A nine-semester longitudinal study shows that this change results in a sustained improvement in student performance.

From: Assessing the Conversational Classroom, Seminar Announcement Department of Computer Science, FEIT , The Australian National University,7 November 2007
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