STEM students perform better in classes that use active learning methods

May 14, 2014

A new study by researchers at the University of Washington and University of Maine has determined that students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) classes that use active learning perform better on examinations than do students in lecture-only classes. The report “Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics” is a meta-analysis of 225 previous studies comparing student outcomes in STEM courses that use different instruction methods. Students in classes that used various forms of active learning scored an average of 6% higher on exams than did students in lecture-only courses. Students in lecture-only classes were also more likely to fail the class than students in active-learning classes. "The data suggest that STEM instructors may begin to question the continued use of traditional lecturing in everyday practice," states the report. Critics of the report suggest it creates “false polarizations” between instructors who only lecture and those who use various forms or combinations of active learning with lectures, when in fact very few instructors rely solely on lecturing. Inside Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education