Students hear more by not attending class
Than attending a class in which slides were shown


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Researchers at Purdue University concluded it’s possible to “hear” more of what a professor says by not attending class, than attending a class in which slides are shown.

This study was conducted among students enrolled in a course entitled “Human Factors in Engineering,” which was delivered to students from four majors: engineering, humanities, management and technology. The course was attended by undergraduate and graduate students and was taught three times a week for sixteen weeks.

There were two separate streams of classes for the course, which was based on the textbook Human Factors in Simple and Complex Systems. For two identical lectures, two different delivery styles were used with exactly the same information presented. One lecture showed slides. One did not. The lecture that didn’t show slides employed a chalkboard where necessary to highlight visual concepts—commonly known as “chalk and talk” in academic circles.

Researchers used a twenty-question, multiple-choice quiz to test students’ ability to recall information from the lecture in four categories: oral information, graphic information, alphanumeric information, and information presented orally with visual support.

The researchers’ first hypothesis was that using slides would have a negative effect on what was said. They believed that students who saw the slides would have lower scores on oral comprehension. This was confirmed.

Students who didn’t see slides scored twenty-nine per cent higher in recalling oral information, and achieved higher overall scores with the recall of all information. “The presence of PowerPoint negatively affected the recall of auditory information,” the researchers said, adding that “graphic scores reveal there was no notable gain when using PowerPoint to display graphic information.”

Students scored just as high on graphic recall when professors used the chalkboard when needed, rather than showing slides. Slides added zero value, and had a decidedly negative effect on the ability to listen to what was said.

In addition to testing students who attended the lectures with and without slides, the researchers discovered they were testing a third group: those who didn’t attend either class but showed up to write the quiz.

Interestingly, those who read the textbook, did their work outside the classroom and showed up to write the quiz scored higher on oral comprehension than those who attended the PowerPoint lecture. They “heard” more by not attending class, than attending the class in which slides were shown.