Making independent learners

The first keynote at the Physics Higher Education Conference was given by Professor Derek Raine of Leicester University, who is perhaps best known for using problem based learning to teach physics and interdisciplinary science. Thinking about Derek’s work leads me to the unsurprising conclusion that getting people to work things out for themselves leads to deep learning. Do we perhaps provide too much scaffolding?

Both Derek’s keynote and the second one (from Frederik Floether (just starting Part III at Cambridge and winner of the 2010 UK Physical Sciences Centre student essay competition) considered the future of physics education. Frederik described a situation in which students take learning into their own hands, using the internet to find things out for themselves. We need to encourage this sort of behaviour : ‘You can take learning into your hands and you can do it’. Frederik also described knowledge exchange in which ‘Everyone is a teacher and a learner’ – so Wikipedia has its uses!

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