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Lessons Learned from FIPSE Projects II - September 1993

Curriculum and Teaching in the Disciplines

All nine of these programs have as a common feature the creative adaptation of modern electronic technology, ranging from computers to programmable calculators to TV satellite transmission. The uses of this technology vary from simulations to self-instruction to practice, but all reflect pedagogical imagination applied to widely experienced classroom problems.

Six of the nine projects are in the sciences, and of the three non-science projects, two are in fields whose theory is strongly based in mathematics. It may be that the sciences lend themselves better to the kinds of instructional adaptations of technology that FIPSE has promoted; it may be that the teaching of science has been a matter of special concern to the disciplines in recent years; or it may be that successful short term learning outcomes are more readily demonstrable in the sciences. Whatever the reason, the predominance is notable.

Several of the projects are self-consciously based in contemporary learning theory. Thus they sequence learning differently from what has been the custom in the field, strive less for coverage and more for student independent discovery and understanding of basic principles, and promote active learning. Because in many cases microchip technology eliminates the drudgery or even impossibility of complex calculations, changes are occurring in what gets taught.

All of these projects place the student at the center of the learning experience. The lecture has not become obsolete, but these strategies have the effect of reducing the faculty role in mediating learning and make it much more a matter of student effort and discovery. If students do indeed understand better and retain longer what they discover themselves, the argument for wide adoption of such strategies is strengthened. Fortunately, the specific curricular and instructional materials developed through these projects have been demonstrated to be adaptable at many different kinds of campuses. Nearly all project directors report wide dissemination of their work, with several reporting controlled evaluations of their materials on campuses other than their own.

[Salem State College] [Table of Contents] [Clemson University]

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Last Modified: 02/22/2006