Lecturing remains the most common method for teaching undergraduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known as the STEM disciplines. Although other forms of instruction have made inroads, the continuing reliance on this pedagogical tool may be stymieing efforts to increase the number of graduates in those programs.
“We have a really good idea about what doesn’t work: lecturing students without engaging them, having labs not linked with lectures,” says James S. Fairweather, a professor of educational administration at Michigan State University and a co-principal investigator of an Association of American Universities project that seeks to improve STEM education.
A recent faculty survey shows that more instructors in STEM fields than those in other disciplines rely on this method: 63 percent of STEM professors said they used “extensive lecturing” in all or most of their classes, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. About 37 percent of faculty in other fields said they did so.
The latest results of the survey were released on Wednesday. The survey, which is conducted every three years, was administered during the 2010-11 academic year to 23,824 full-time and 3,547 part-time faculty who teach undergraduates at four-year institutions.
Increasing the number of graduates from STEM programs has been a national priority for years, and it has only grown in urgency. President Obama and other policy makers have recently touted it as an economic, civic, and national-security imperative. <Read more. May require paid subscription.>