Do we need to attend lectures?
At some point in our lives, most of us have attended a school or university lecture. These learning sessions give us some insightful nugget of knowledge or can be something we yawn through, trying to keep awake. Whatever our experience, lectures have been and still are the most common teaching method in education. But will they exist in the future?
With the growth of the internet and so much information at our fingertips, you may think there is no need to gather together at a fixed location clutching a handful of textbooks. BBC journalist Matt Pickles, says "research has shown that students remember as little as 10 per cent of their lectures just days afterwards."
Professor Carl Wieman, who campaigns against the traditional lecture, felt talking at students and expecting them to absorb knowledge was not that effective so he introduced 'active learning' that encourages problem solving in small groups. He listens to them and guides their discussions. The result has been improved exam results. Other new alternatives to the lecture have included peer-to-peer learning and project-based learning that enable students to link up and work collaboratively on projects such as building a computer game.
Sometimes the lecture room is not conducive to learning; a boring, colourless room is not necessarily an inspiring place for stretching the mind. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology two lecture rooms have been refitted to allow students to sit around small tables with screens showing animated simulations to help them visualise concepts.
But new learning methods can come at a high financial cost compared to the relatively cheap way of being taught face-to-face by an academic. The real issue according to Professor Dan Butin, founding dean of the school of education and social policy at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, is that "Academics put thousands of hours of work into their books and much less time into thinking about the effectiveness of their teaching style." But he says "the lecture has survived because research, not teaching, determines the success of a university and its academics."
So if research quality is a measure of a university's success and money is tight, then the lecture could be here for a little longer. How does that make you feel? How would you improve your lectures?
nugget of knowledge
at our fingertips
stretch the mind