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Math, Science Still Often Taught the Old School Way

Classes in science, technology, engineering and math are known as STEM classes. Many professors continue to teach STEM classes the traditional way: by lecturing. But standing in front of the class and lecturing may not be the best way to teach today's students. That is what Kevin Eagan says. He is with the University of California, Los Angeles. He also

is co-author of a new study. It found that lecturing is still used a great deal in STEM courses taught in the United States. Kevin Eagan says lecturing is not bad, but it tends to be less productive when it is the only teaching technique used in the classroom. He says that when teachers add class discussion, encourage questions and provide hands-on activities, students are better engaged in learning. Supporters say placing students at the center of instruction changes the focus from teaching to learning.

The study did find a growing use of student-centered methods like class discussions, cooperative learning and student presentations. Female professors are more likely than male professors to use the new methods in undergraduate classes. More than 60 percent of female faculty in science, technology, engineering and math said they used cooperative learning methods. That was compared to about 40 percent of male teachers. Lecturing is used the most in STEM courses.

Kevin Eagan says faculty members need time away from their classes to learn some of these new techniques.The result of older methods may be low completion rates in STEM programs. The Chronicle of Higher Education noted that less than 40 percent of students, who seek a degree in one of these subjects, actually graduate with one.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 01Nov2012)