I know, this should be a rhetorical question. It really should. Unfortunately there are a few misnomers in the question itself. You might ask “don’t you mean lectured to?” While I’d like to, I think everyone can think of at least one experience of a professor or instructor droning forward with straight lectures. No invitation for class discussion, no chance to reflect on the source material, just 50 minutes (or in the in the cruelest of circumstances, a three hour seminar) of pure lecture thrown at you. Place yourself back in that classroom, and ask yourself “did I even learn anything?” Even if you did, the absorption of information was probably minimal at best. Depending on your own personal experience, you may also remind yourself “this was probably the worst class I’ve ever taken.” So with the obvious common reaction, why is it that I’m betting 99.9% of you reading this can all relate to this example?
The term “lecture” is something that students and instructors alike are beginning to hate. This point has become more obvious to me the more classes I take, and the more classes I TA for. Instructors will make the statement on the first day of class that “I don’t like to lecture for the entire period, so I hope you (the students) will engage in discussion.” While this provides a far more stimulating situation than having a PowerPoint displayed and then read word-for-word with little to no elaboration, this statement can also start to mimic a plea for help. It’s like saying the lecture is still going to be boring, and the source material won’t stand on its own without the help of outside discussion and inquiry.
I don’t think I’m saying anything that you yourself may not have already thought to yourself. So why say it? Well for one, learning experiences like these are still happening to this day on this very campus. Reading through Robert Talbert’s article, I found myself nodding my head in agreement without even knowing it. When you think about some of the better lecturers, do you frame these individuals as good teachers or good speakers? While I agree that you’re more likely to get more out of a lecture when you have a great speaker, I also think you’ll retain more of the material when you’re placed in a a situation to absorb the material yourself. Be that in groups, or preparing a train-the-trainer situation, to name a few examples. Newer and different learning environments are springing up each day. The New Culture of Learning is littered with diverse examples. So why do we keep finding the same situation of students sitting in classrooms being lectured at when we can do so much better?
Don’t we want more of than