‘Heated debate’ about the effectiveness of lectures as a teaching format, kicked off by @donaldclark

Donald Clark did the opening keynote lecture at the ALT-C conference last week, and used the opportunity to lay into the lecture format. I’ll post the video and transcript of the lecture when available, but here’s Donald’s response to some of the criticism and feedback he got via Twitter. The ongoing debate in the comments is probably even more interesting than the original post.

Don’t LECTURE me (yes I’m aware of the contradiction)’ was the title of my talk. A number of people objected to me criticising the lecture, using a lecture. Ho hum. First, I explained myself in the title and verbally at the start of the talk. I was deliberately provocative as I wanted to show that the lecture is an odd format and explained the weaknesses of the format as I spoke (one hit, psychological attention, dull, memory fade etc).
To effect change, which is why I do this stuff, you need to create a sense of urgency and that means getting to the people who matter. In this case, in HE, they happen to love attending conferences. I don’t, but that’s where they hang out. To catch fish, you sometimes have to trawl in the cold, cruel sea, a place you’d rather not be. Read more at donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com
In all areas of education there is strong evidence to suggest that teachers, trainer, lecturers default to ‘talking at people’.

Guy Claxton in ‘What’s the point of school?’ and James Dillon in ‘The Practice of Questioning’, both quote an interesting study showing that primary and secondary schools children hardly ever ask their own questions. I quoted this study from Bristol University during my talk (it doesn’t count as evidence apparently because I only named the source and didn’t show the URL (because it’s only in print document). The study showed that students volunteered only TWO questions to the teacher’s EIGHTY FOUR!

I suspect it’s even worse in the lecture driven pedagogy in our Universities, where critical thought is certainly thought, but not taught. We have, of course the OU, with 200,000 students and little or no lectures. It is clear, therefore that lectures are not a necessary condition for success. They seem to do well without the format.

Other than that, there doesn’t seem to be reliable data on how many lectures are delivered straight, how many recorded, how many with electronic feedback, how many with additional activities. However, I do find it barely credible that lectures delivered straight are a thing of the past. I am convinced on what experience I have gathered that it is still the norm. In fact, many of my academic friends are surprised when I ask the question, as they have never thought that there were any alternatives.Read more at donaldclarkplanb.blogspot.com


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