But does it have to be a lecture?

This Chronicle-based blog post titled “Four things lecture is good for” is resonating with a lot of people. At least judging by the retweets etc.

I wonder if the article really should be title “Four things that make lectures (or any teaching mode) better”.

I can see why the post resonates. The author (@RobertTalbert) proposes four really good purposes for which a lecture is suited, including:

  1. Modeling thought processes.
  2. Sharing cognitive structures.
  3. Giving context.
  4. Telling stories.

I also agree with two other points he makes.

First, that the lecture is not good for information transfer. I like the argument that made that a lecture is being used to “cover material” then the design of the course has failed. I still like this quote for defining the lecture

A method for transferring the content of the lecturer’s paper to the paper of the students without it passing through the minds of either.

Heard this quote years ago, but can’t remember the reference.

Second, that inspiration does not equal learning.

Why limit these methods to a lecture

I’m not sure I’d limit these purposes to just a lecture. For me they sum up some important aspects of teaching in general.

Too much of the teaching I see – whether in lectures or in textbooks – does not model thought processes. To often the abstract representation of much research is presented to students as a fait accompli without showing students how/why this developed.

It appears that education is especially great at developing and presenting models and frameworks to represent a problem area and expecting students to base future action on them. I’m not sure adding a Think/Pair/Share, Jigsaw or other activity on the end is sufficient.

For me, I’ll be using each of the four techniques in most of the modes of teaching I’ll be using. Face-to-face lectures, online lectures, tutorials, discussion forums etc. Posting on this blog is also part of this.

5 thoughts on “But does it have to be a lecture?

  1. David

    Love that quote. Apparently it is:

    “A lecture is a process in which information passes from the notes of the lecturer into the notes of the student without passing through the minds of either.”
    (Gilstrap & Martin, 1975)

    If other authors had referenced properly, we’d be able to know the page number!!

    Maybe someone else has the book and can pin it down?

  2. Sorry to disappoint anybody who thinks that quote about the lecture might be attributable to a 1975 publication as the original source. I recall that W H O (Harvey) Billing gave our 1967 (possibly 1968) Chemistry class at QITDD (now USQ) that exact same description. Harvey made no claim that it was original to him – at least not that I recall – but it was evidently out and about as early as 1968/68.

    1. A quick Google suggests that perhaps Gilstrap and Martin were the first to put that quote in a book/article that folk could reference. Will see what the say when the book arrives in a couple of weeks.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s