Recently, I heard a student comment in the hallway about lectures. This student said, “Lectures are so boring. The information goes over my head." Yikes, I thought: I sometimes use lectures in my teaching, so her comment touched a nerve for me.
Since that day, I've done some thinking about how lectures could be acceptable within the context of applied learning that we have at RRC. I'd love your comments and feedback on the guidelines I've drafted:
Effective lectures are actually 2-way conversations: No one likes to be talked at, so the key is to bring the students into the lecture by peppering the talk with questions that encourage them to respond and contribute to the evolving conversation. In addition, I intersperse activities – individual or small group – into the lecture to keep them engaged in the learning.
Productive lectures are hard work: Lecturing is not just talking; it's planning and practising and revising. It must be designed for the specific group of students in the course, and those students must be taught how to get the most out of the lecture – this can include effective note taking, active listening, and probing questioning.
Meaningful lectures go beyond the textbook: It's not about “speaking" the textbook; it's about bringing key concepts and ideas alive by talking about them as a first step in the learning journey. The next step is for the students to translate their new knowledge into applied skills and abilities. Animate the teaching with examples, stories and additional sources that expand the students' thinking and their sense of potential.
Memorable lectures require personality: Every minute of teaching is performance art of one kind or another. Bring your best energy and most dynamic personality to it, and expect the same of the students in their role. Teaching and learning both take energy, focus and commitment.
What do you think? Am I just trying to make myself feel better or can lecturing be good and appropriate teaching sometimes?
Do you use lectures to teach? Have you sworn off them? Tell us about your experience as an instructor or as a student. Sign in above, then comment below to join the conversation.
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