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Adv Physiol Educ. 2006 Mar;30(1):17-22.

Too much teaching, not enough learning: what is the solution?

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


The curriculum is packed with so much content that teachers resort to telling students what they know and students simply commit facts to memory. The packed curriculum leaves little time for students to acquire a deep understanding of the subject or to develop life-long skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and communication. However, learning is not committing a set of facts to memory, but the ability to use resources to find, evaluate, and apply information. This paper addresses these concerns by discussing "how we learn" and reviewing the literature on what works to improve learning. It is clear that active processing of information, not passive reception of information, leads to learning. That is, students must construct their own understanding of concepts, relationships, and procedures. Teachers can encourage this process by carefully considering the type and organization of information as well as instructional strategies. Specifically, teachers should reduce the total amount of factual information students are expected to memorize, reduce our use of the passive lecture format, and devote much more effort to helping students become active, independent learners and problem solvers. Collaborative learning activities, interactive models, educational games, and establishing a culture of inquiry/scholarship are critical for achieving these goals.

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