May 2017

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The increasing demands of today’s business environment are propelling The UWI to find innovative approaches to teaching. Educators are calling for a more active and student-centred approach in the classroom.

From a personal level, our experiences indicate that learners retain more when they perform activities in the classroom, as opposed to hearing, reading or observing. But despite the mounting evidence for implementing active learning in the classroom, some educators doubt the effectiveness of student engagement, especially when students are unfamiliar with the subject matter or are less self-regulated in their learning styles.

Similarly, we note that students may have a strong preference for the traditional teacher-centred approach in a classroom environment because it is familiar and requires little engagement.

Given the debate that surrounds teaching and learning, the question remains: can interactive teaching strategies improve academic performance? Our research compares the effectiveness of two teaching strategies (traditional lectures and contemporary interactive lectures) on the academic performance of Electrical and Computer Engineering students at The UWI. We also investigated the students’ perception of their learning experiences when interactive lectures were used.

Research Design

In terms of research design, the researchers selected a compulsory business management course (ECNG 6709) that provides postgraduate students of the Electrical and Computer Engineering degree programme with theoretical and practical knowledge of the main managerial concepts and practices.

It is important to note that business management is not a familiar discipline to most engineering students, and the students may not have a keen appreciation for this course, as opposed to other more technical courses.

A two-group experiment was designed. Group 1 consisted of students exposed to the traditional lecture teaching strategy and Group 2 consisted of students exposed to the interactive teaching strategy. Students self-selected their group based on their personal schedule and work demands.

The interactive lectures were based on an active, inquiry-based approach built on three pillars:

  1. open-ended engaging questions;
  2. a student-centred approach to teaching and learning; and
  3. hands-on classroom activities with discussions.

The two groups were exposed to the same content by the same teacher, in the same classroom. The effects of interactive lectures were evaluated through students’ final test scores and responses to a structured questionnaire administered at the end of the lecture period.

In addition, students in Group 2 (interactive lectures) were asked to prepare anonymous notes about their experiences. These anonymous notes served to improve our understanding the nature of students’ perception of the interactive classroom environment and augment the quantitative results collected by the standardized instrument.

The Findings

The findings make a compelling case. The result shows that academic performance is higher when interactive lectures are used. These results contradict the traditionalist perspective and make a strong case for implementing interactive teaching strategies in the classroom environment. The results show that student perceptions of business management improved when interactive lectures were used. The interactive learning approach fosters a community learning environment and encourages learning through the integration of academic content with social experiences. Students demonstrated a clear preference for an engaged learning environment and were satisfied with the interactive classroom experience. However, although interactive lecturing can be effective, some caveats emerged, including personal intimidation, isolation, and general fear of public speaking.

It is also important to match the learning objectives with the teaching strategies. Shifting to a new style may be uncomfortable and uncertain for some students, and some may need time to adjust to the new teaching methods. It is highly recommended that instructors consider a staged approach in moving from a teacher-centred to a student-centred learning environment where they begin with simple cooperative learning strategies (such as think-pair-share).

This article is based on the authors’ recent publication entitled “Teaching Business Management to Engineers: The Impact of Interactive Lectures” published in the IEEE Transactions on Education. The article is available from the publishers website

Dr. Meena Rambocas lectures in Marketing at the Department of Management Studies, The UWI, St. Augustine Campus.

Dr. Musti K.S. Sastry received a B.Tech Degree in electrical engineering from JNT University, Hyderabad, India in 1990, and Ph.D and M.Tech. degrees from NIT Warangal, India in 2002 and 1996 respectively.