Skepticblog published an article on “The Science of Learning” which is quite interesting. The author is Steven Novella, a clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine and host of the highly-recommended weekly podcast The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.
The article identifies a major problem in teaching: catering to your students’ attention span.
“There are different figures as to what the average “attention span” is, depending on exactly how it is measured, but the figures are generally less than 20 minutes, and as low as 5 minutes. Of course, this depends on attention to what. I can pay attention to a 3 hour movie without difficulty, if it’s Lord of the Rings or similar quality. Try listening to a 3 hour lecture on a dry technical topic, and effectively process the information presented the whole time.
So how do we get students to spend the day in lectures and actually learn a significant portion of the material?”
The answer comes from a preliminary study. Go read the whole thing here!