The Reflective Educator

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Simulating transmission of knowledge in a classroom

I’ve created a simulation, which vastly over-simplifes classroom dynamics and information flow, in an attempt to look at some of the differences between a lecture style classroom and a cooperative learning classroom.

View this simulation here if you are having trouble seeing it above.

  • In a standard strict-lecture style classroom, the teacher does all of the talking, and the students listen. Each student independently tries to come to grips with the material, and there is a chance that they don’t understand it in the same way the teacher indends them. This corresponds to a student transmission level of 0 above, and any teacher transmission level.
  • In a mixed lecture and discussion setting, the teacher transmits most of the knowledge, but part of it is co-constructed with the kids in the form of a two way discussion about the material, wherein the students get clarification of what they don’t understand, and can ask questions. In this case, the students have a low transmission level, and the teacher transmission level is at any stage.
  • In a cooperative classroom, the students have a high transmission level, as they are free to mix and mingle with each other. What is not yet represented above (but will be as I work on this simulation) and I admit this is a problem, is the issue of students occasionally introducing misconceptions to each other, rather than the version of the truth that the teacher is hoping they will find. This corresponds to relatively high transmission rates for students and the teacher both (note: 50% is fairly high, given that this is intended to include a variety of factors).
  • The simulation also lets one choose a "flat" classroom where every student has the same ability, a normally distributed classroom, and either a skewed classroom toward a weaker or a stronger class. This choice affects both student transmission ability, and student "learning" ability.

Other than the obvious "you can’t simplify learning that much" comments, please give me some feedback on this system, and what other potential variables should be included. Please also play around with this simulation and explore the differences between the different classroom styles that you see.