When are students teaching themselves?

February 17, 2012, 11:40 am

Over the last 24 hours I have run into at least three situations where I’ve heard either peer instruction or the inverted classroom model as being pedagogical frameworks in which — according to others — “students teach themselves”. I don’t think this is accurate, and I’m trying to understand where this idea comes from.

Certainly in the inverted classroom model and in many instances of peer instruction, it’s simply not the case that “there is no lecture”. There can be a lot of lecture in either of these models. It’s just that the lectures are not given in class. They are broken up into rewindable, pause-able, digestible chunks and posted online where people can view them on their own schedules and according to their own listening practices. For my inverted MATLAB class, I recorded 41 screencasts’ worth of lectures, amounting to about 332 minutes of lecture, which is not very far off from what you would get in class over the course of a semester in a one-credit course (which this was).

So if there is roughly the same amount of lecture in this kind of class as there is in a traditional classroom, and the lectures are over the same material and given in more or less the same way as they would be if they were given in class, why is there the sense that

  • If the teacher is lecturing me during class, I am being taught, but
  • If the lectures are outside of class, I am teaching myself?

To my way of thinking, it’s in the traditional classroom where students are teaching themselves, because the real learning comes from assimilation — not receiving information, but internalizing it through working on problems. And in the traditional classroom, I am given this work to do on my own. I may have the option to work in groups or come to office hours, but that’s not the default. It may not even be an option.

Where is the belief that “lectures outside of class = teaching myself” coming from? And is this an accurate way to sum up the experience that students have?


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