*The feature image can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/edbrambley/4260498576/
There is perhaps no method of instruction more vilified than the lecture. On twitter, I see the following detracting comments:
- Lecture is antiquated and ineffective with the modern learner.
- Lecture is passive learning.
- Lecture doesn’t prepare our students for the 65% of jobs that haven’t been invented yet.
- Have a look at the learning pyramid…students can only remember, on average, 5% of material presented during a lecture.
- Lecture doesn’t meet all of the needs of student’s needs when addressing different learning styles.
These are just the comments that pop into my head right now. But, what is a lecture? Like most ideas/concepts in education, we (myself included) generalize a lot about methods and terms. For a term as universal as ‘lecture’, that leaves a lot of leeway for interpretation. Usually, interpretation leads to differing definitions, which leads to differing understandings, which leads to the fun that is edutwitter debate. To be a bit more specific, if you are a proponent of <insert any eduterm>, you are probably a bit more forgiving with its definition and application in education. Likewise, if you are an opponent of <insert any eduterm>, you may choose a more cynical view. Then, the crazy train that is the curse of knowledge takes over and we’re all in for a great debate.
So, again, what is a lecture? In a discussion I participated in on twitter recently, it was posed that a lecture is “one-way instruction that is at least 5 minutes in time.” That is certainly one definition…but there are countless other definitions. My question is, so what should we call one-way instruction lasting 4 minutes, 59 seconds? Like most aspects of education, it is quite difficult to reach consensus on a term as universal as ‘lecture’. Maybe my interpretation of the lecture is too liberal, but it is difficult for me to comprehend the disdain for this method of instruction. I simply don’t understand how it is passive or simply creates an environment of rote-learning and memorization (By the way, what is so wrong with memorization and knowledge?). Again, this could simply come down to a misunderstanding of the basic definition.
What does it look like in my classroom?
Well, let me begin by saying that I teach high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors AP Psychology. The material every day is new to most and there is little to no prior knowledge of the information. As this is the case, and since I subscribe to a lot of the tenets of cognitive load theory to drive my instruction of new material, I want to create as distraction-free an environment as possible for my students. This includes having all of my students facing the front and sitting in rows…I have tables, so it’s not exactly ‘desks in rows’, but it basically is. Also, I present a lot of the material to them verbally with images that relate to the information displayed via an LCD projector. The students synthesis this information and take notes. It’s simple, clean, and decluttered of as much extraneous stimuli as possible.
I know…not very innovative…that’s passive learning…not a lot of engagement…the digital learner doesn’t learn this way. Well, please allow me a few paragraphs to hopefully convince you otherwise.
‘Passive learning’ is another term that is tough to define. I believe it does, to an extent, describe lecture. Students do sit and receive information…but it is so much more. During lecture there is feedback, interaction, and discussion. I ask for and love when students provide clarifications for other students on confusing terms/concepts and relates a particular idea back to their life with a story. Often, other students can then relate and, before I know it, we’re having a chat about psychology/life and creating retrieval cues for all. Students are also encouraged to ask their questions or concerns about the class material. I can then either answer their questions or another student can offer their interpretation and application.
Well, hopefully, the above discussion on…discussions…dispels this a bit. Also, during lecture, students focus on proper note taking…synthesizing information and working to write down what they deem to be important. During and after taking notes, students also attempt to use a learning strategy known as dual coding to further improve retention of material. Along the way, to assess understanding of material, questions can be posed to the class verbally, via kahoot, via the use of exit tickets, etc. Lecture isn’t devoid of engagement. It’s there.
I know what you’re saying — “This isn’t lecture, it’s collaboration.” Maybe so…maybe not. It all comes down to your definition of ‘lecture’. I guess I could argue there is lecture in your collaborate lesson, if I really wanted to. I don’t.
How can lecture prepare my students for the innovative jobs of the future (65% haven’t been invented yet)?
Lecture imparts knowledge. Knowledge is a requirement for innovation and creativity. Simply put, you cannot be creative with knowledge you do not have. This is why, when initially presenting information to students, I try to do so in as simple a method as possible. Creating an environment with as few distractions as possible decreases the extraneous load on our limited working memory and allows for the possible processing of more material.
What about the learning pyramid and meeting all of my student’s different learning styles?
Evidence tells me the idea of having a particular learning style and the statistics associated with the learning pyramid are myths. Please, please, please check the following links and consider the evidence when designing lessons based around these myths. You could definitely be unintentionally harming your classroom environment.
Lecture is all you need?
That’s not what I’m saying at all. It isn’t everything, but it should certainly have its place in the classroom…especially with initial presentation of new material or as a method of reviewing information. Collaboration, creativity, and innovation are all great…after you’ve acquired the knowledge. No, lecture isn’t shiny and new. No, it isn’t considered a 21st century method. Although, it actually is…if you’ve ever watched a TED Talk, you’ve just enjoyed a lecture.
So, please don’t write off this effective and efficient method. It mustn’t be boring or passive. Provided students are afforded the opportunities to synthesize, discuss, and apply material presented, lecture is a wonderful foundation for learning in most classrooms.
Do you agree? Does lecture still have its place in the modern classroom?
If so, how do you utilize lecture in the classroom?
If not, how do you introduce new material in the classroom?