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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.