Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is there still a place for Lectures??







As we begin to acknowledge the research around learning retention and effectiveness, it is difficult to continue to make a case for lectures. Notice how much is retained from a lecture format (learning Pyramid), and also note the effectiveness of a learning experience that relies heavily on verbal symbols (Dale's Cone).

I acknowledge that while this research that was conducted in the 1960's looked at large numbers of students and classes, it does not identify specific pedagogical approaches, the quality of the lectures or the technologies now available.

Recently, I had a conversation with a colleague of mine who teaches professional communication and media. We were discussing the role of lectures and she has decided to go back to lectures, but with a difference. In this course she explains the curriculum with current public relation examples. Those that are currently making media coverage.

As a result of this approach her preparation must happen on the "fly" and cannot easily be re-used the next time she teaches the subject.
In her lectures she proposes to discuss the current media events and make direct connections to these by referring to the curriculum available to the students online. Now, she has both face to face online and international students who are taught by tutors at other campuses. The interactive lectures she is to conduct will be video recorded and placed up on the subject Website so that all students can view these as streaming media files.
This means that she prepares once, but all students have a chance to have an equivalent learning experience.

Overall, this approach is not seeking to replicate the learning material already available online, but to "Value Add" to her students learning experience in an interactive lecture format. She intends to discontinue the previous two hour tutorials, and in doing so, will gain additional preparation time.

So is the lecture "dead", not with clever pedagogy.


David said...


You may want to check the following links and what they have to say about the figures you're using.


Scot said...

Hi David,

Yes I've see these kinds of arguments before and most use the same kinds of un-scholarly hyperbola (fraud, bogus, deception). Christopher Harris ( ) is another who makes similar claims.
The claims do, however, have some justification in terms of the number of uncontrolled variables, some of which are mentioned in the Blog postings to which you refer.
It is my understanding that the Learning pyramid is based on large scale research by the Bell Laboratories in Bethel, Maine, and like most of these studies, assumes that if data is gathered from sufficiently large enough populations then the statistical significance outweighs the uncontrolled variables.
I teach pre-service teachers and use these models to cause my students to confront narrow views of education so that they understand the needs to develop more varied approaches to learning in schools so that a much higher percentage of their students will have richer learning experiences.

With the Blog posts you have cited, and similar attacks I have also read, you need to be circumspect with the motives of those who publish them. You will notice that the author offers no actual evidence of their own, or other experimental research and this actually undermines their arguments.
It is also worthwhile understanding some of the political motivations currently being pushed--see: as just one example.

Thanks for your contribution to this very important discussion.



Anonymous said...

G'day Scott,

I missed your response. Another event has led me to develop a response, which I've put on my blog