Lectures: Cruel and Usual Punishment or Misguided?

Most students don’t realize that the reason why educational lectures became a part of the traditional style of teaching is because in the United States we have the Bill of Rights! The Eighth Amendment clearly states that use of cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited in United States, therefore, lectures had to become the norm. Lectures are the cruel and usual punishment of the education system. It’s the only way for lectures to constitutional.    ZLecture1

We have all had that class. The class we count down the minutes. We think about how we only need to get through the next five minutes, six times before it’s over! It happens! However, it happens all too often when some instructor is giving a long-winded, tedious, monotone, repetitive, uninspired, torturous, abhorrent, and life-draining lecture.


Source: http://www.rachaellowe.com/dont-give-up-on-the-lecture/

Lectures have become education’s default setting. Most of the time, they aren’t about learning or imagination. Lectures are signs of cough-outs or worse, they are burnouts of our educators. They are safe teaching practices that do provide the information needed to pass the class. Do students learn from lectures? Sure, they do work at times but are they always the right method for learning a particular lesson?


Source: http://msteacha.com/?m=201310

Robert Talbert says that lectures are good for four things: modeling thought processes, sharing cognitive structures, giving context, and telling stories. He explains lectures are not “information transfer.” Lectures are used as information dumps, so a teacher can say they “taught” the material. Yet, in many cases, the only thing that has been learned is either how to not hit your head on your desk as you drift off to sleep or who can make it appear as if they still care.


Source: http://repeatingislands.com/2011/10/02/upcoming-caribbean-conferences-october-update/

Talbert points out a fundamental problem with lectures: they are method of teaching a specific kind of subject matter, but they are not THE TEACHING METHOD. Lectures have become corrupted and part of a growing problem of unimaginative education practices, but is educational lectures to the point that they need to be salted and burned and never used again? That is not a easy question to answer.

Personally, I love a GOOD lecture. To me, a GOOD lecture is a story—something that engages me and engrosses my imagination. Being able to listen and take notes that capture the essence of the knowledge or just simply listening to someone share a small portion of their knowledge, fosters a curiosity and excitement that I rarely get to experience. However, for me, a GOOD lecture doesn’t really feel like a lecture. Lectures to me have this connotation that they are inherently evil and boring. Yet, a GOOD lecture to me evoking the passion of storytelling and reminds me of how much I don’t know and how much I still have to learn. But how do we make lecture GOOD lectures? Can we use GOOD lectures to simulate the imagination and engage passion in students, especially in the Age of the Internet?

Good Lecture

Source: http://doccartoon.blogspot.com/2011/03/tips-for-lecturing-to-med-students-and.html

Naturally, there are many solutions to solving the lecture overdose. We need to imagine and recapture our own passion and zeal for what we are teaching. I think it’s critical to know when to lecture an when to do something else. Lectures need to get away from power points and outlines. GOOD lectures play to the strengths of educator’s experience and enthusiasm and not to the task of checking the box for what the syllabus says to do. GOOD lecture create a story and connect students to knowledge. Mixing different methods of teaching with GOOD lectures create an environment for learning, engaging, and informing students without resorting to the Ludovico technique.

9 thoughts on “Lectures: Cruel and Usual Punishment or Misguided?

  1. I think your points about how good lectures can be engaging and useful are spot on. I had a professor in my first semester of undergrad who was the absolute best at engaging students in a lecture setting (50+ people). I never felt like I was in a class that big, and I never once felt bored. He’s enthusiasm for the material was evident, and, as a result, I too became even more interested. I agree with you that, if we can find good lecturers and create good lectures, lectures serve a vital role in education.

  2. I find lectures useful, but often only if the deliverer of said lecture is, as you say, engaging. Much of what we impart to our students in public speaking is animation – intensity, variety, etc. I’ve had both – passionate lecturers that really enjoyed the material, enjoyed engaging the students with questions and discussion, and the ones that are paying a mortgage. So much has been said in this class about doing away with lectures and coming up with new and exciting, different ways of handling the classroom. This is a good thing, change and evolution in education is necessary. What worked for the last generation may not be the most effective way to deliver material to this generation. Adding a little style to a lecture may enhance the experience for the student. Baby/bathwater adage, etc.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts. I shared the same torturing in class when I counted the minutes, similar to insisting the last steps in a marathon. I like your point on story-telling about a good lecture, and I hate to take notes in class. Some hand writings are very difficult to recognize, and I write slowly so normally I fall behind if I take notes. Sharing the slides before class is a better way to help students like me. We can print out the slides, go thought it before the class, and take the important notes on the slides which is much less than without the slides.

  4. I feel the same giving a good lecture is an art. It is more like a performance where you keep the listeners captivated. But what we need to think of is what were some of the things that really made it good?
    I think one is definitely a story. It does work, the second is personal experiences, a good dose of humor and then finally questions that shift the thinking part of the listeners. I do feel it is an art and no matter how much we say this should be done it needs a good amount of practice !

  5. I like your post format. Text with figures helped me release from long and massive text. Back to the point of your post, I agreed with your idea about the diversity of points and different contexts for some different key points, which will help students keep curiosity to explore more knowledge.

  6. After reading your post, it made me think about where the concept of presenting material in lecture-based format came from in the first place. If lectures are not for information transfer, but simply a method for teaching, why is it essentially the only method through which we are “taught” to teach? As a public speaking GTA, I think that this is something that is rooted back into the origins of public speaking, where being a good orator (or lecturer) was seen as a good quality. An important thing to note is that not everyone is a good speaker because it is something that takes much time and practice. As teachers, we are rarely evaluated based upon our ability to lecture, but rather the results from evaluations and course averages. Makes me wonder how valuable student evaluations are.

  7. I share the same sentiments. I think a paradigm shift is necessary. This would shift the focus less on the “The holder of Knowledge”, but more on resources or technique, context, the application, and knowledge-based component as in “What the learner knows, and what they’re able to do with that knowledge”. I’m an Ed Psych major, so I also think addressing behavioral and cognitive processes as they align with the learners’ retention, engagement, motivation, and competency level are also attributes that equate to evolving teaching strategies, which would shift from traditional pedagogical outcomes. It’s like practices and philosophies to centuries date back to contributors and educational reformers like John Dewy, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau who were advocates for “new teaching strategies”, so I wonder when the evolution of teaching and learning will take place, especially since technology is progressing us forward (I think we have made some movement) and I’ not totally saying lecture is bad, but I think there should be a balance. Great post!

  8. Yep. Lectures are unavoidable, but I can certainly change how I deliver them. With a small class, it’s easy to see who is and isn’t paying attention, in a large class that would be harder. I like what’s been shared in class about using cell phones to communicate with the instructor, but I also think there is an element of self-directed learning that students must do. If a lecture is boring, too bad. My job as an instructor is not always to entertain you, but to give you useful information you can use for the rest of the course.
    Life isn’t always interesting, but somehow, as adults, we are expected to make the most of it. I think we coddle students too much at times by treating them not as the adults they are.

  9. I agree with your concluding comments about appreciating a “GOOD” lecture. I completely agree, and have been trying to figure out how to get that point across in lecture for weeks. I’ve always considered myself lucky that I learn well by the traditional educational structure. I am an auditory learner, and writing information down is the best way I’ve found for me to absorb the information. Since beginning this class, I’ve brought up this subject to many students in my department and they agree with me. I agree that this environment can suffer from a bad lecturer, and I have certainly sat through those classes where time seems to be moving backwards. I only want to emphasize that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a traditional lecture works very well for many students.

Leave a Comment