Learning Dialgoue: The Lecture Method

Clearly Ohlone faculty are engaged in ongoing exploration of new teaching and learning strategies. Much of the focus is on active and collaborative learning and this is good. But what about the age-old "lecture method?" Let's have a dialogue about this and see what we are thinking about the once (or still?) dominant teaching approach in higher education.


At 9/29/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lectures remind me of Churchill's (I think) quote on democracy, something along the lines of "it's the worst possible system except for all the others".

Sometimes lectures are the only practical solution. The problem is of course that a) different students learn differently and b) (not quite the same thing) students have varying degrees of bandwidth; while you're boring some of the class, others are struggling to understand what you're saying.

I'm constantly looking for ways to change the dynamic, and find ways to maximize the 1-on-1 situations. If nothing else, the shame students sometimes feel in asking a question in front of the group usually doesn't occur in 1-on-1.

One other thought: while lectures aren't great, the social situation is i.e. getting students in the same place at the same time is an important stimulus. This reflection comes from my noticing some of the downsides of online instruction, where there is, at best, only a virtual community.

Jim McManus

At 10/04/2006, Blogger Sheldon said...

Jim is certainly right about the benefits of the Lecture Method, and I'd add that it never has to be boring. Maybe I'm biased by the fact that I teach Psychology, but I've always stood in (unflattering) awe of people who can make a lecture boring. Even if you don't use PowerPoint, you can liven up a lecture with stories that illustrate your points, challenge your students to debate an issue, etc., all of which bring a lecture alive.

The danger with this issue is that "bad" teachers may believe that switching methods is the answer to improving their teaching. My opinion is that, if you're not good at lecture, you may not be good at moderating Collaborative Learning either. (The latter is actually much more labor intensive for the teacher, and involves a totally different planning series, btw.)

At 11/29/2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mine that teaches in a corporate training environment told me that in order to be effective, he must change teaching modes every 20 minutes. He has noticed that after that much time has passed, the students minds start wandering. While it is possible that particulary dynamic speakers can probably stretch that limit, it is doubtful they can sustain it for the 3 hours that some of our night classes have become. My own undergradute experience with a 3 hour night class was more that it was a nightmare!

I want to improve my lectures, but have been trying to heed my friends advice by remembering to stop every few minutes and let the quiet sink in, then ask for opinions, questions, clarifications, anecdotes..anything to get the students talking. This has been working pretty good so far with more energy and interest being generated.

Another way to change to a different mode is to introduce a problem to be solved, and try to get participation in solving in all together in one big discussion. I prefer that to the method of breaking into small groups and it may be just as effective since the "leaders" of the small groups like addressing the whole class. I even find some students that will come up to the board and write things but that is rare.

I want to keep lectures as the main format, but learn to interrupt the lecture at strategic points for variety and to let new ideas have a chance to be expressed.

-Dave Topham

At 2/18/2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I teach 2 courses as an adjunct faculty member for Nursing/Allied Health. The EKG course requires some lecture and then the class breaks out into groups to get hands-on practice interpreting EKG. I know that changing methods several times in a class be it 1, 4 or 8 hours is imperative. The same is true for the Lab and Diagnostic Tests. Depending on the student's baseline knowledge, scenarios may require changing, or alternative learning modes may be needed as well. Students are put into groups (changing who's in the group helps develop collaborative learning and provides acces to different points of view) given actual clinical information and are asked to analyze and interpret the information to formulate a diagnosis.

I know that I personally want to develop my skills for class room presentation. Trying to learn Powerpoint by myself and finding enough visual materials to to incorporate and/or reinforce content presented is a challenge.
I am interested in learning what different sites my have visual items or text ideas. If you have favorites please e-mail them to me at my home: katemccl@pacbell.net.
Kate McClure RN, MS, CCRN

At 12/01/2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever method we use to teach, it is important that the rooms be flexible. The rooms at Newark work very well as I change from group work to lecture to helping students at their seats....
Tables ( that move ) instead of tablet desks, small portable white boards, movable chairs...
Sustainability is also important to consider as any space is designed. We just found board markers that are refillable, and chalk boards still create less landfill trash than white boards. Elmo is great instead of paper handouts...


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