SFU needs more creativity and interactive learning in the classroom

Cognitive research shows students thrive with diverse learning, so why are we so reliant on lectures?

Courtesy of NeONBRAND via Unsplash

By: Mishaa Khan, Peak Associate

Despite how far research has come in studying cognition and learning, the field of psychology still relies on an archaic, top-down mode of lesson delivery: hour(s)-long lectures by the instructor in which students are passive recipients at best. This is somehow meant to stir interest and maintain focus in the subject matter.

In my experience, the teaching methods in science departments at SFU and other universities is outdated and largely does not cater to varied learning abilities. Everyone has a different best way to comprehend information, such as student-led learning, interactive lectures, discussions, et cetera. To cater to the range of ways students process information, SFU needs to expand their teaching methods.

In the 22 courses I have taken at SFU, 21 have been very heavily lecture-based. Most of my classes did have a complementary lab or tutorial component to them, but the lectures themselves proved to be dry more often than not.

The one class that didn’t fit this mold was a seminar where we spent three hours discussing our assigned readings. It proved to be one of my favourite classes despite being held at 8:30 in the morning. Perhaps if my other, lecture-based classes had implemented a different teaching style than just sit-and-listen, it would have helped me (and others) enjoy and appreciate the content a lot more than we did.

I’ve often had to buy coffee for some of my lectures, even after getting adequate sleep; I feared I might fall asleep or let my attention wander out of boredom. I’m sure there are others who echo these sentiments. Students should not have to rely on coffee to keep themselves alert and focused through a monotonous class. It is the job of the professors and the university to implement better, research-affirmed instructional techniques to aid our learning, not the students’ job to compensate for the faulty system.

For example, a meta-analysis done by Neil Bradbury suggests that lectures alone aren’t enough to solidify knowledge and contextual application in students’ minds. Students need to be doing as much as listening to fully comprehend the information they are taking in.

I’m not saying that we should get rid of lectures entirely they can be an effective way to deliver knowledge under time constraints but they should not be the only mode of teaching instructors rely on. Instead, I’m arguing that students should be given diverse methods in how they consume and show their understanding of course material.

The limitations of current teaching styles hinder students from reaching their full potential. As a result, students who are discouraged by their classes and grades may underestimate their intelligence. This could lead to students being less likely to pursue their passions all because of our stagnant educational system. This generation consists of our future leaders, so why are universities suppressing their abilities instead of strengthening them?