If you’ve participated in a CETL workshop or consultation recently, or if you’ve been following the news on MOOCs, you’ve probably heard debate about the role of interaction in student learning. I recently read two pertinent articles on the subject.
Anderson (2003) theorizes “deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction (student-teacher; student-student; student-content) is at a high level. The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience. High levels of more than one of these modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience, though these experiences may not be as cost or time effective as less interactive learning sequences.” (p. 3) Anderson critiques the traditional lecture as deficient because it usually offers only medium or low levels of the three forms of interaction. He says that distance learning can promote “high levels of learning by maximizing student-content interaction and getting away with minimal amounts of student-teacher and student-student interaction” (p. 7). Author’s full disclosure here: I am all for having high levels of all three types of interaction.
Mahle (2011) tested Anderson’s (2003) theorem by comparing three groups of students to see what effect different levels of student-content interaction had on 124 students’ motivation and achievement, as measured by scores on pre-, post-, and delayed posttests. Mahle found that student-content interaction accounted for statistically significant levels of both motivation and achievement between the low group and the medium and high groups, though not between the medium group and the high group.
What do you think about this theory and the accompanying empirical research? How well does it match your experience? If Anderson and Mahle are right, why doesn’t it work to just tell students to interact with the content and then watch them all obediently engage at high levels? What role do student-student interaction and student-teacher interaction play in the miracle of learning?
Anderson, T. (2003). Getting the mix right again: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 4(2), 1-14.
Mahle, M. (2011). Effects of interactivity on student achievement and motivation in distance education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 12(3), 207-215.