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Hit The Snooze Button On Dull Lectures

by Christine Gross-Loh

The Atlantic

Article excerpt

Should Colleges Really Eliminate the College Lecture?

For some years now, students in MIT’s introductory physics classes, for example, have had no lectures, and physics departments at institutions around the country have been following suit. But while the movement to eliminate the college lecture first gained traction among physics professors, including the Stanford Nobel laureate Carl Wieman and Harvard’s Eric Mazur (a proponent of “peer instruction” who has compared watching a lecturer to learn physics to watching a marathon on TV to learn how to run), it has expanded beyond the sciences.

Our take

Long Live the Lecture

Studies and generally held beliefs have long lamented the power of the traditional lecture to sufficiently aid student learning. New methods of interacting with students both in and outside of the classroom are changing the ways that instructors think about learning. Are lectures on the way out?

There are some compelling points to be made for the elimination of the lecture and some schools and programs—notably MIT’s physics program—have done away with them some time ago. But, as this author points out, the problem of lectures may not be the lecture format, but the skills, or lack thereof, of instructors. Lectures have, and are likely to continue to have, a place in education, but only if done well. Ongoing professional development can help teachers continue to hone their skills in traditional and technology-enabled instruction methods.