Today, in another class we were discussing a current discussion in the engineering education field. What should we focus on teaching, core knowledge or practice/solution of problems? My response was that you cannot have one without the other. You first need to learn the basic concepts before you are able to apply them and find solutions. You need to transfer the knowledge of basic concepts to the students; you could employ different teaching techniques. For Robert Talbert the lecture would not be one of them. He sees lectures as good for “covering material” but “terrible for information transfer.”
I’ll take the role of the devil’s advocate and say that without lectures, how are we going to provide the copious amounts of information for them to ‘learn’ and later be able to apply in problem solving. Talbert says: “Resorting to a lecture because I need to “cover material” is just an admission that I didn’t design my course well. If that’s all the lecture is for, put it online so students can at least pause and rewind.” How do we know we are serving the students well by doing this? Maybe internally motivated students will do this. Will externally motivated students benefit from this? There is a proverb that says: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Certainly, lectures are not a perfect; one size fits all solution for teaching. They are another tool for us to transfer knowledge. There are many other tools that we can employ to motivate students and keep them interested in the topic and wanting to learn more outside the classroom. Like Mark C. Carnes mentions about president Obama in his article, “No one can say that the future president of the Harvard Law Review (and of these United States) was not college material.” Who knows if we are motivating and teaching a future leader of our country, but we are definitely teaching the young minds that will have the future of our country. We should do our best to keep them engaged and effectively transfer knowledge to them.