Monday, February 01, 2016

Teaching Tip #94

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #94

Another very insightful read: To Lecture or Not to Lecture?

I love lectures.  I learned so much from them.   I think of Jerry Schnabel at Bemidji State University who lectured every single class.  They were brilliant performances.  He was like a conductor making sense out of all this various elements of history, and, somehow, connecting it to our own lives.  The same was true for Nancy Michaels who also lectured every single class.  She had us in awe - especially when I had her for two graduate 3 hour long night classes - the entire time so that those three hours went by in what felt like one hour.

I hate notes, though.  I learned little from them.  John Halcrow, head of the education department, was notorious for this.  So was Spiro Thomidas in the history department.  I was bored to tears in those classes.  Worse, anything that I learned, I taught myself.

Schnabel and Michaels were able to teach me via lectures in a way that engaged me and didn’t even make me aware of how much I was learning.  They somehow turned me into a sponge that just soaked up what they were teaching.

Halcrow and Thomidas didn’t teach me much since I wasn’t engaged.  They turned me into a stone that just let their boring monotone voices bounce right off.

So I am in no way anti-lecture.  But a “lecture,” as I see it, is a performance.  It’s not regurgitating notes or talking off the cuff about stuff I just committed to memory in the car ride to school.

They take planning and outlining and vast resources.

In fact, I’d love to see each teacher required to give a lecture (to their classes or to a large group in the commons) once a month.

The faculty response I give to at the Honors Banquet is an example (at least I think of it that way) of a lecture.

So I think lectures kind of get a bad name as they are lumped in with bad practices like just going over notes or teaching half ass because we aren’t prepared.

But like anything, I think there also needs to be a balance.  Deliver a rousing lecture once in awhile.  Bore them to tears with notes every so often.  Have students do a group presentation a few times.  Engage in a socratic seminar a few times.  Don’t just fall into a rut.


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