Times’ Article Fails Readers
I was deeply disappointed by the article “At M.I.T., Large Lectures Are Going the Way of the Blackboard.” The reporter lauded the new teaching method, TEAL, as fun and effective, while implying the old, “traditional” lectures are oppressive and ineffective. (They aren’t, by the way.) The article barely mentions that TEAL is actually very controversial on campus.
As an MIT sophomore, I can assure you there is good reason for this “resistance” from students. Though not a TEAL survivor myself (yes, students here “survive” TEAL), I would call it “widespread student loathing.” Although there may be some genuine well-meant pedagogical thought behind the method of TEAL, its implementation has failed miserably.
There’s a lot of hype about TEAL because it’s the latest teaching fad supposed to teach everybody perfectly, but the fact is that there is no magic teaching bullet. Everybody learns differently. What matters is whether the teacher can effectively implement whatever method he or she chooses to use — and most TEAL professors are terrible at teaching TEAL. Put simply, most students here find that TEAL is not effective for a variety of reasons, and leaves them hating physics.
Talking to them, I realize that taking 8.012 (the insanely difficult, lecture-based, and absolutely wonderful alternative to TEAL) was one of the best decisions I ever made: if I had taken TEAL, I don’t think I would be a Physics major today.
Physics Reform a Boon
This is one of the most exceptional changes that MIT has made. As a freshman leaving my physics lectures in 8.01 and not understanding most of the lecture, I would have benefited greatly from an environment in which I was actually taught something.
The idea that we could go home and just figure it out is “bogus.” Additionally, many times there was a language barrier that had to be overcome between us students and most of our professors, who barely spoke English.
We pay a huge price to attend MIT and it is not a far stretch for the Institute to “teach” students instead of beating them to death with the big stick of knowledge. Physics is the foundation for my mechanical engineering degree. I may have turned out to be a genius if I had learned something in 8.01.