Are lectures beneficial to student learning?

The idea of a lecture-oriented classroom was the only type of classroom that most students know prior to starting college and made up about 90 percent of my undergraduate classes with only a few being discussion-based. So, starting graduate school, not having really any lecture-oriented classes was a unique experience that I wasn’t completely ready for or fully expecting. I typically don’t choose to share much during class during discussions as I like to think over my thoughts more thoroughly before sharing.

Talbert started his post originally stating he typically extremely dislikes lecture-oriented, yet did think there were some positives including: modeling thought processes, sharing cognitive structures, giving context, and telling stories. I would definitely agree that all four of these are positives related to this type of class style, but I don’t think they are the only positives that can come from lectures.

While, he does present those four positive components, I appreciated how he acknowledges that he doesn’t believe that information transfer is a positive, but in fact it is more effective at “covering material.” Talbert also introduced an interesting shift of thinking for me, in that a lecture can be inspiring, yet still may not actually learn anything so it ultimately isn’t effective. I would challenge Talbert’s comment on this as I know several people who are able to retain information, most of the time myself, and are able to truly learn from some of these experiences in lecture-oriented classrooms. Many people gather the incorrect or incomplete information as there are many terrible lecture experiences, but there are some instructors who can make lectures interesting enough or can present the material in a way that allows for easier/better cognition and understanding of the material. I say all of this identifying that I might be slightly biased because of my positive experiences and great professors. My opinion has been changing slightly recently since I have been in more discussion-based classes recently, but I believe there are still pros/cons to both types of classroom styles as certain classes/majors require different things from their classes.

With all of that said, I do think something that Carnes mentioned in his article is important to acknowledge as there are many students that just go “through the motions” which could cause some of the negativity surrounding lectures. In order to improve globally, something in U.S. education needs to change, but I don’t know if it is necessary lectures that are causing this problem.

Networked Learning

The concept of ‘learning’ is talked about extremely often in the college environment, but Dr. Wesch stated well in his Ted Talk in how we have looked at learning as just dumping information into peoples’ heads. He continues to talk about students sneaking right passed the education just trying to get through the class with the needed grade to move on to the next one. At times during both my undergraduate/graduate experiences, I have felt like that student just trying to go through the motions to get the grade and move on to the next class as quickly as possible. However, my experiences outside of the classroom was ultimately where I found the ‘real learning’ he discussed. I wrestled with the questions of ‘who am I, what am I going to do, am I going to make it’ and didn’t really ever talk with someone about those until the start of my senior year, almost too late to adjust anything about my experience. I had to make the decision to stop being ‘comfortable’ in the position I was in, and take a chance on a new/different career and type of work. In undergraduate I was definitely with lots of other students focusing “more on careers and ‘competencies’ and less about inquiry, meaning-making, and broadly humane view of human capacity” (Networked Learning as Experimental Learning). That quote from Campbell outlines the change of focus I had to make entering graduate school or else I was not going to be able to get anything out of the program.

The idea of ‘networked learning’ I first think about social media and how the world is utilizing that to network with each other, but the learning part is usually not there. Godin talks about the humility needed for blogging and how you are having to explain yourself with the post. Humility is something usually lost in most posts in social media, and blogging has the edge when it comes to most of the posts being impactful on others based on someone opening up and sharing their organized (or sometimes not) thoughts. Social media is a beast and I could rant about its negative impact on college students in relation to ‘networked learning,’ but I will focus on how as college administrators, we are responsible for helping in students finding that transformation needed to learn from their experiences. As Dr. Wesch talked about all of the stories, all it took was reaching out to the student and finding what they needed to succeed or at least listen to their unique story. Some students need a lot of help and support, while others just need someone to listen to kick start their learning. We need to work to (or continue to) focus on helping students learn how to build a life worth living, and not just how to make a living.