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More Research Showing Why Inductive Learning Works


The Mind Hacks blog revisits an older study that restates why inductive learning, student autonomy, and choice works in the classroom.

The blog also has a useful chart. It’s worth checking-out but, in summary, it discusses findings that students will remember things far better if they bring their own meaning to in a way they choose:

What this research suggests is that, merely in terms of remembering, it would be more effective for students to come up with their own organisation for course material…..You’ll remember better (and understand much better) if you try and re-organise the material you’ve been given in your own way.

If you are a teacher, like me, then this research raises some distrurbing questions. At a University the main form of teaching we do is the lecture, which puts the student in a passive role and, essentially, asks them to “remember this” – an instruction we know to be ineffective. Instead, we should be thinking hard, always, about how to create teaching experiences in which students are more active, and about creating courses in which students are permitted and encouraged to come up with their own organisation of material, rather than just forced to regurgitate ours.

It’s nothing particularly new, but any research that backs up that kind of perspective certainly can’t hurt….

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. This is why, if lecture is used, students must become good at note-taking. Note taking is, essentially, the student’s real-time re-casting of the information being delivered by the lecturer, into a format that is created by the student, with the student choosing what information to select and how to arrange it. This is a far, far better way for the student to retain and understand the material than what is more commonly done: the teacher hands out a study guide, which is just an abbreviated version of the lecture and provides the student with no opportunity at all to “own” the material the way note-taking does.

    Now, when students are just learning how to take notes in a way that works for them, there are many bumps in the road. They have to have opportunities, starting in grade 7 or 8, to take notes in short periods of time, working up to the ability to note-take for an entire 50-minute class. It is very hard work, and it comes more naturally to some students than to others. Some find it easy to take notes in science or math classes, others find it easy to do that in English or History or Arts classes. But it is really important, because it is a vehicle for avoiding the “mindless regurgitating” complaint that so many have about lectures.

  2. It doesn’t appear to show any such thing. It shows that thinking about something helps you learn it. Last time I looked almost every teaching method that anybody seriously advocates requires thought.

    • Inductive learning entails students bringing their own meaning and organization to information and concepts, often through categorization activities. That appears to be exactly what the study suggests is the most effective learning method.


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