April 22, 2022
“How do you know when you are learning?” This is a question important to answer, especially in its more nuanced form: “When you are learning, how does your sense of how well you are learning match the answer an expert watching you might give?” It turns out that people often get it wrong, which leads to any number of bad decisions in their day-to-day pursuit of an education.
A group at Harvard led by Louis Deslauriers, Logan S. McCarty, and others, recently did an in-depth comparison of students’ self-reported perception of learning (how well they thought they were learning) with their actual learning (how well they demonstrated their learning). This was done in an introductory college physics course that was taught in one of two ways, either by active instruction (following best practices in the discipline) or passive instruction (with lectures by experienced and highly rated instructors). Both groups received identical class content and hand-outs, students were randomly assigned, and the instructor made no effort to persuade students of the benefit of either method. The researchers found that:
Students in active classrooms learned more…but their perception of learning, while positive, was lower than…