The 17th Century Classroom–A Thing of the Present?

photo credit: University of Colorado News Center

photo credit: University of Colorado News Center

Carl Wieman, a physics professor at Stanford University, is on a mission to revolutionize the student learning experience. Weiman is a champion of personalized learning. In a recent interview with NPR he shared how he’s achieved success in his own classrooms. Students lead their own discussions, work through problems, and then report their findings through iclicker questions. Weiman considers himself a “cognitive coach”, a guide and help for his students in their own learning. His students come to class prepared, alert, and eager to participate.

Weiman has had so much success in his classrooms, he can’t imagine teaching any other way. In fact, he compared traditional lecture-style teaching to blood-letting, the two-hundred-year-old medical practice that still gives us the shivers. However extreme his comparison may seem, his data backs him up: grades improved by 20%, test performance increased by almost 50%, and course failure decreased by 12%.

Sometimes, advances in education seem to come as slowly as a school bus making it up a hill. Luckily, we already have part of the new advances in our hands. Technology is making the personalized learning that Weiman advocates a reality. Teachers have the capability to better monitor their students, understand their individual needs, and assign them supplementary materials. Weiman uses iclickers to keep students engaged, and using the results he can adjust his lessons quicker than a traditional classroom. Sounds a lot better than losing blood to me.