I love a good lecture!
Lecturers can be humorous, thought-provoking, information-filled, interesting and inspirational ways to stimulate the mind.
Haven’t you attended a lecture and left laughing? Or thinking that you’d love to learn more about that topic? Or been impressed with the presentation style of the lecturer? I have, many times.
Lectures have served valuable purposes in higher education. It’s how I learned much of what I now know. I still listen to lectures available on Ted Talks to gain different perspectives and to find presentations that I use to stimulate students’ reflection on and critical evaluation of a myriad of topics. Lectures can make you say “I knew that!” and thus confirm what you know or “I had no idea!” to wake you up to a different viewpoint.
[I also love reading good books. I now read most of them electronically. I can become immersed in a good book. I find it quite exciting to purchase a book about which I’ve heard interesting things, or to purchase a book by my favorite author, then set aside time to read and think about the book. Some of the books are for work, some are for pure pleasure but either way, it’s an exciting journey to select and read a new book. My excitement is palpable…but I digress.]
So before we declare the death of the lecture, we should consider how it can be used:
- To convey information (now available through Wikipedia or a Google search?)
- To model a way of thinking (which now can be recorded for students to review; which may now be available through video resources created by others)
- To integrate diverse perspectives and views into a relatively short presentation (Now available through mashups that can integrate vocal, photography, video, text and other delivery methods)
Although there are other ways to present information, lectures can and continue to be one valuable tool in the in an educator’s toolbox.
I have also attended boring, uninspired, lectures presented by some who seem to drone on forever, either making the same point in exactly the same way multiple times, who read from lecture notes only, who are not engaged with the audience [or even, it seems, aware of the audience!]. So students have a valuable point when they talk about boring lectures.
I’ve explained how I can enjoy (and learn from) a good lecture. I’ve also explained how some lectures can be boring. But not everyone learns in exactly the same way. And I must admit, I learn better, sometimes, when I work with something. Haven’t you been working on a lesson and realized that you learned it much better now that you’re teaching it?
And I frequently learn better when I have to manipulate, say, objects on a map, or draw a diagram. So, although I enjoy (and I hope sometimes deliver) good lectures, I know that listening to lectures is not the only way to learn. It may not even be the best way to learn. And it is not the only way to teach. Look at my initial success using Twitter.
There has been a great deal of research on learning since educators first began using lectures extensively. I will refer to that research in this blog-I referred to some of that research in another post. That research should help drive instruction in higher education.
Teaching (and learning) are great challenges!