I was interested to see this Sunday New York Times op-ed piece by Molly Worthen on the value of college lectures.
In recent years, many have become skeptical about the value of the long form lecture as a way to impart knowledge to students (Worthen suggests this thought is not new, historically).
Faculty have instead been encouraged to pursue much more active forms of learning, including flipped classrooms, more student presentations, collaborative projects and the like. And, the value of the long lecture, especially in 3-hour, once-a-week classes, has been questioned more and more. The assumption has become that a lecture is really an old-fashioned form, especially with today’s technology, one perhaps just continued by faculty who haven’t bothered to update to active learning approaches.
So, it is interesting to see Worthen strongly defending the power of the lecture, and I think she does it well. But, not just any lecture and certainly not just reading out of the book, or from PowerPoint slides that summarize the main book. Worthen argues for lectures as narratives that pull together a series of facts, ideas and theories into an argument. She also emphasizes the importance of students being “present” for the lecture and participating in the thought processes and intellectual development involved.
Yes to more experiments with active learning, but let’s not throw out the lecture form, which can be valuable when done well.