Friday, October 12, 2012

The 'Old-fashioned' lecture

Listening to experts in pedagogy, student services and university curricula for the past few years has given me the impression that most people think the idea of old-fashioned lectures from professors is just that: old-fashioned, stodgy, stale, yada yada. I've never quite believed the mantras associated with this popular belief, which tend to go hand in glove with moves to ramp up distance education courses which - although they often include taped lectures - do not by their nature involve participation in a face to face encounter with a live person who lectures. And I've always thought that there is inherent value in such face to face encounters: in hearing a professor explain points on the fly; engaging (whether sympathetically or skeptically or both) with students; watching and evaluating how a professor thinks though things, maybe with notes or slides as back up, sure, but always with that adventurous aspect of the 'on the fly'.

Well. This story made my week. No, it made my month. A research study conducted here in Quebec and headed by a colleague here at Concordia confirms the secret that I thought might never see the light of day. Wait for it: Students Like (Good) Lectures. GASP!!

Here's the eyebrow-raising part of a story on the study, near the end:

The surprising results showed that students were more appreciative of the literally “old-school” approach of lectures and were less enthusiastic than teachers about using ICTs in classes. Instructors were more fluent with the use of emails than with social media, while the opposite was true for students.

“Our analysis showed that teachers think that their students feel more positive about their classroom learning experience if there are more interactive, discussion-oriented activities. In reality, engaging and stimulating lectures, regardless of how technologies are used, are what really predict students’ appreciation of a given university course,” says Fusaro.
Amazing. Spread the news: gadgets, videos, convoluted, multi-faceted discussion rubrics. All might be useful in certain contexts.... But nothing can replace the old-fashioned lecture for providing the base of a high quality university education.

And, as for the value of good lectures and the person-to-person element of a university education, see this excellent piece from a few weeks ago by U of T professor Orwin: There's no substitute for a real university classroom.

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