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(The Atlantic)   Lecture classes didn't work when they came to prominence in the Middle Ages, and they don't work today, claims someone who never paid attention in class   (theatlantic.com) divider line 106
    More: Fail, Common Core, Tlatoani, speeches  
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3828 clicks; posted to Main » on 17 Nov 2013 at 7:01 PM (22 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-11-17 07:05:21 PM
One of the best modern professors I've seen is Harvard's Michael Sandel. He's very engaging with his Socratic method.

The author here might be onto something.
 
2013-11-17 07:06:19 PM
Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.
 
2013-11-17 07:08:08 PM

dfacto: Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.


I'll have a muffin with my latte, thanks.

/Engineering major
//graduated after many lectures
///makes good money
 
2013-11-17 07:09:40 PM
popblerd.com

ob-ed
 
2013-11-17 07:11:13 PM
MemeSlave:I'll have a muffin with my latte, thanks.

/med school
//it's all in the books, thousands and thousands of pages of information
///why do i need someone to take up a few hours of my day reciting it back to me in their own words?
////I could be doing something instead or at least reading cases
 
2013-11-17 07:11:54 PM
Is the fail lectures or education in general?  I'm confused by the use of the tag.  I always learned better in hands-on environments which drove my parents crazy for some reason.  My mother would get pissed because I did really well in science lab and wood shop and completely blow it in every other class.
 
2013-11-17 07:12:09 PM
cdn.theatlantic.com

Students at Wooranna Park Primary School in Melbourne, Australia go on an outerspace mission from their holodeck-style classroom

Lamest. Holodeck. EVAR.
 
2013-11-17 07:12:25 PM
Maybe in some subjects lectures aren't as effective, but I can't think of a better way to teach engineering classes.
 
2013-11-17 07:12:41 PM

MemeSlave: dfacto: Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.

I'll have a muffin with my latte, thanks.

/Engineering major
//graduated after many lectures
///makes good money


^^This is the problem with you people right here.
 
2013-11-17 07:14:04 PM
I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally love lectures in the humanities, and I loathe them in the STEM fields. A lecture in ancient history = storytime! Yaaaaay! A lecture in p-chem = OMG kill me now. 

Different learning styles work better for different people in different subjects. Farking Duh.
 
2013-11-17 07:16:05 PM

MemeSlave: dfacto: Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.

I'll have a muffin with my latte, thanks.

/Engineering major
//graduated after many lectures
///makes good money


Just because it is a current requirement or cultural norm, doesn't mean it is practical or the most efficient way of doing things.  As an engineer, I'm sure you can understand that.
 
2013-11-17 07:16:07 PM

whistleridge: I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally love lectures in the humanities, and I loathe them in the STEM fields. A lecture in ancient history = storytime! Yaaaaay! A lecture in p-chem = OMG kill me now. 

Different learning styles work better for different people in different subjects. Farking Duh.


For me it was the opposite.  I hated lectures in non STEM classes and preferred them in STEM classes.  I bet it's more related to where your interests lie than anything else.
 
2013-11-17 07:16:10 PM
This guy has been defunked several times...........Oh, the Atlantic.......never mind.
 
2013-11-17 07:17:01 PM
Depends who the lecturer is.

Some people are really boring. Some people are really entertaining. It helps if you're interested in the subject matter, too.
 
2013-11-17 07:17:23 PM
But if you attend lecture, they frequently emphasize or outright tell you what's going to be on the exams. :/
 
2013-11-17 07:17:41 PM
I hated lecture classes.  Still do.  I'd rather be chased by wild animals with a guarantee of death than sit in a 1.5 hr (or worse, those odd 3+ hour) lecture.  Luckily most professors don't seem to care if you dick around on the internet because that is what most students have to resort to in order to stay even marginally conscious and participatory.  Lecture classes could easily be replaced with well planned web activities and physical classes should just be interactive labs.  Can't have an Intro to Grammar lab?  The fark you can't. You just haven't tried. fark lecture classes.

/kinetic learner.
 
2013-11-17 07:19:48 PM
Lectures do not work with all students in all subjects as the predominant methodology for instruction. For smaller topics which have essential information which other concepts may be attached to the lecture is amazing, and this is why watching a six, twelve, or eighteen minute TEDtalk is useful. Each is a lecture, but the essential information for a field and inspiring content on the vanguard of understanding leads the audience to further find information on the presenter, on the broader concepts, on specific events mentioned, and on the research presented. This is why relationships between the lecturer and audience, interest in the material, surprise in the material, etc., is important. When I offer an off-the-cuff explanation of the tardigrade followed by video to fifth graders because of discussions on favorite animals, the amount of retention is amazing.

Whatever the material, whether content or process or reflection, demanding attention is the important element.
 
2013-11-17 07:22:51 PM
I have noticed this trend with professors and PowerPoint that amounts to magical thinking. They never anticipate class discussion and have way too many slides packed with way too much text for each class. At the end of class when they're running out of time, they actually just want to "get" to each slide, which means speed-reading the material. I have one professor who at the end will click to a slide and say, "OK, so we saw this" (meaning: I've put the slide up so it counts as me having taught it) and then just clicks to the next slide. It's BS when the colleges says that they've moved past the lecturing model to having discussions, Socratic method, etc. I haven't seen it at the undergraduate level. It's still dumping information from the professor into your head like a bucket. And it's not terribly efficient either. And I go to a school that is known for undergraduate studies, and I am sure there are worst schools in terms of class participation. We have a 12:1 professor student ratio. But I have never had a class with fewer than 35 students.

I'm thinking that university professors might not get a lot of education in pedagogy. I even suggested to a professor that he could put the slides (which I told him are good, and they actually are good) online so that we could do an overview ahead of time in addition to the readings and have more time for discussion in class, but he's paranoid about students getting his slides for some reason. It sometimes seems like a waste for the students who have done the readings, because the lectures are often just a simplified version of the readings. There's nothing value-added about it.
 
2013-11-17 07:25:59 PM
Lecture classes work for students who are legitimately interested in the subject. Discussion groups definitely help, though. The majority of my 4 credit classes in school had a mandatory discussion 10-20 student group. Hell, even some of the 3 credit classes did.
 
2013-11-17 07:27:27 PM

eisenoxyde: whistleridge: I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally love lectures in the humanities, and I loathe them in the STEM fields. A lecture in ancient history = storytime! Yaaaaay! A lecture in p-chem = OMG kill me now. 

Different learning styles work better for different people in different subjects. Farking Duh.

For me it was the opposite.  I hated lectures in non STEM classes and preferred them in STEM classes.  I bet it's more related to where your interests lie than anything else.


Surely. I WAS a military history major. I bet you were a STEM major.

Although part of my bias could be cultural: STEM professors at my university (NCSU) tended to be Indian/Asian, resentful of having to teach, and possessing thick accents. This the lectures tedious and the grading harsh. Our liberal arts profs tended to be super interesting loquacious raconteur-types, and those classes tended to be small seminars that were more like dinner conversation and less like a university lecture.

I wouldn't be surprised if your experience was almost exactly the converse.
 
2013-11-17 07:28:12 PM

AverageAmericanGuy: One of the best modern professors I've seen is Harvard's Michael Sandel. He's very engaging with his Socratic method.

The author here might be onto something.


Almost all of my undergrad work was done this way, and I learned more in four years than I probably had in the previous twelve.  It was simple, and danged effective.  The professor (actually, we called them "Tutors" but they were full faculty members) would assign a reading (from a real book btw, not a textbook) for the next class.  Class would open with a question from the Tutor put to the fifteen or so students around a table.  The Tutor would manage to keep the discussion going in a productive line, and keep us from going down logical blind alleys by posing further questions of pointing out objections.

Hardest program I've ever been through, but it worked.  I failed Algebra in High School, but by the time I left college I was confident enough to write a thesis comparing Appolonius of Perga's treatment of Conic Sections with Descartes' Analytic Geometry.

And we didn't need no stinking laptops or internet.  Though that was thirteen years ago, and I can see the practical uses of things like kindles.
 
2013-11-17 07:29:07 PM
Currently sitting through a class where the lectures don't have anything to do with the reading, because the prof doesn't want us to be able to sit through the lecture and fill out the busy work that was assigned with the reading. So half the class is an irrelevant lecture that could be used for something else.
 
2013-11-17 07:30:35 PM
i291.photobucket.com

He just kept talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence, moving from topic to topic, so that no one had a chance to interrupt; it was really quite hypnotic.
 
2013-11-17 07:32:13 PM
*sigh* Just another person "discovering" what's been known for a long time. Heck, almost 20 years ago, I was preparing seminars and (irony alert) lectures on the four styles of learning. I just want each person who suddenly "discovers" such things to be hit in the balls with all the other previous "discoveries" before waving such things around.
 
2013-11-17 07:33:06 PM
 gadian  /kinetic learner.

You mean kinesthetic, and I will note learning styles have no basis in research. Rather, the more modalities engaged, such as auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic, written, and others, and further emotional responses made the greater the retention and assimilation of information. Now, I will say learning styles do have a value by making educators aware of the need to present information in a multitude of ways, as multiple intelligences theory means educators recognize different cognitive processes to engage with as opposed to being a comprehensive and valid conception of intelligence.

swingerofbirches: I'm thinking that university professors might not get a lot of education in pedagogy.


Few do, with a doctoral degree being qualifications enough to instruct others on content and process. While I will say the initial education degrees receive a somewhat deserved poor reputation, graduate level courses are often taught by people who have sincere teaching experience and are seeking to engage students with parts of the material rather than force them to remember the totality of a textbook. A majority of my current courses are dedicated to my crystallization of previous knowledge and experience through the lens of research either in small or whole group contexts. This is, for someone who has done and created research and had extensive experience and reflection, a godsend.
 
2013-11-17 07:34:25 PM
I work for a university, so kick, replies, etc.

I teach literature/creative writing/composition and my lectures help illuminate and bring context to works that the Good Will Hunting-style of learning cannot benefit from. That's why they pay me.

/love my job
 
2013-11-17 07:37:27 PM
An excellent speaker can talk for 90 minutes about the rusting characteristics of galvanized nails and the audience will adore every minute of it.
 
2013-11-17 07:37:55 PM

Vangor: You mean kinesthetic


I do.  Thanks for the correction.  As for the basis in research, all I have is my anecdotal experience that if I can't get my hands physically on the subject, I'm not retaining it.  You can lecture with lights, lasers, incense, and smoke machines if you want while trained pink rabbits dance on your head, I have to be able to physically tear apart a subject in order to learn.
 
2013-11-17 07:38:51 PM

tetsoushima: MemeSlave: dfacto: Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.

I'll have a muffin with my latte, thanks.

/Engineering major
//graduated after many lectures
///makes good money

Just because it is a current requirement or cultural norm, doesn't mean it is practical or the most efficient way of doing things.  As an engineer, I'm sure you can understand that.


Except that this method works for a large number of people, so the proof is on the person claiming it's not effective.
 
2013-11-17 07:39:25 PM

lewismarktwo: MemeSlave: dfacto: Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.

I'll have a muffin with my latte, thanks.

/Engineering major
//graduated after many lectures
///makes good money

^^This is the problem with you people right here.


 Yeah

Have the scone instead
 
2013-11-17 07:42:01 PM
We primarily do lecture-based learning because it's cheap.  Yes, "go read a damned book" is cheaper, and "watch this series is videos" is cheaper if you can scale up the use of well-made videos. But neither of those have proven to do even as well as mediocre lecture-hall learning.  But, we mostly do lectures to 30-1000 students, as opposed to all sorts of interactive or hands-on learning, because it's cheap.  This is why online education has been the new hotness for the last 30 years.  It promises (hasn't really delivered) to do as well as lecture-based learning and be cheaper.
 
2013-11-17 07:46:50 PM

MemeSlave: tetsoushima: MemeSlave: dfacto: Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.

I'll have a muffin with my latte, thanks.

/Engineering major
//graduated after many lectures
///makes good money

Just because it is a current requirement or cultural norm, doesn't mean it is practical or the most efficient way of doing things.  As an engineer, I'm sure you can understand that.

Except that this method works for a large number of people, so the proof is on the person claiming it's not effective.


Does it in fact work for a large number of people?
 
2013-11-17 07:48:35 PM

kliq: I work for a university, so kick, replies, etc.

I teach literature/creative writing/composition and my lectures help illuminate and bring context to works that the Good Will Hunting-style of learning cannot benefit from. That's why they pay me.

/love my job


I have pretty much the same job and wish I could say I love it. I did at one time, but the consistently poor (and growing ever-poorer) quality of the student body and the inevitably criminal pay have ground me to a bitter pulp.

Anyway, anyone in our position who exclusively "lectures" (that is, speaks extemporaneously and alone for an hour or 75 minutes to the exclusion of any other form of interaction, information presentation, or student input) is a goddamned moron, and frankly I'd be amazed if such a professor exists today. "Lecture" these days is a whole lot more complex an activity than that. I am mixing traditional lecture with question/answer periods, offering video, demanding short periods of small group/class wide discussion, pressing kids to read aloud, writing on various boards, editing text on computer projections, etc. etc. I defy anyone to call my lecture periods anything other than dynamic.

But you know what? During those times when I *am* lecturing - whether it be for as little as 5-10 minutes or (much more rarely) for as much as 40 minutes - it never fails that about 1/3 of my students are fully checked out. I mean *fully*. So I am pretty sure the problem lies not with lecture per se, but rather with a small but significant percentage of students whose brains don't farking work if they're not given shiny moving shiat to look at every ten seconds.

Some people just need to learn how to pay attention.
 
2013-11-17 07:50:03 PM
I work as an English teacher in Japan.  Here, everyone must study English from a young age for many years in public school.  Lectures and grammar drills are pretty much the only methods of instruction used, which results in high school grads who can ace an English grammar test but who can't answer "What's your name?" if spoken to.

I work for a major company that teaches private lessons to individuals or small groups, rather than the public school system like many foreign residents do.  Nearly all of our new students are abysmal at speaking, but great at reciting rules of grammar.  We focus almost entirely on conversation and speaking fluency with grammar being secondary (it really is of little use when your primary goal is to communicate an idea to someone else).  I firmly believe that one-on-one/small group interactive instruction with emphasis on students practicing and using their target skill is the best way to teach languages.  I think it must be the same for many other subjects, too.  Of course, it does all come down to personal learning style, but I have the opinion that students who excel in lecture environments do so more because of the strength of their private study habits than the ability of the professor.
 
2013-11-17 07:51:27 PM
theappslab.com
 
2013-11-17 07:52:43 PM

axeeugene: kliq: I work for a university, so kick, replies, etc.

I teach literature/creative writing/composition and my lectures help illuminate and bring context to works that the Good Will Hunting-style of learning cannot benefit from. That's why they pay me.

/love my job

I have pretty much the same job and wish I could say I love it. I did at one time, but the consistently poor (and growing ever-poorer) quality of the student body and the inevitably criminal pay have ground me to a bitter pulp.

Anyway, anyone in our position who exclusively "lectures" (that is, speaks extemporaneously and alone for an hour or 75 minutes to the exclusion of any other form of interaction, information presentation, or student input) is a goddamned moron, and frankly I'd be amazed if such a professor exists today. "Lecture" these days is a whole lot more complex an activity than that. I am mixing traditional lecture with question/answer periods, offering video, demanding short periods of small group/class wide discussion, pressing kids to read aloud, writing on various boards, editing text on computer projections, etc. etc. I defy anyone to call my lecture periods anything other than dynamic.

But you know what? During those times when I *am* lecturing - whether it be for as little as 5-10 minutes or (much more rarely) for as much as 40 minutes - it never fails that about 1/3 of my students are fully checked out. I mean *fully*. So I am pretty sure the problem lies not with lecture per se, but rather with a small but significant percentage of students whose brains don't farking work if they're not given shiny moving shiat to look at every ten seconds.

Some people just need to learn how to pay attention.


I notice that you put "professor" in quotation marks in your profile. Is there a reason for that?
 
2013-11-17 07:55:28 PM
Some folks have stronger auditory processing than others.  For me, I can remember absolutely random shiat that I've see written, but I can't recall what someone told me their name was 15 minutes ago.

Put me in a learning environment where I can exercise practical application, read source material, etc and I'll flourish.  Stick me in a lecture hall, and I won't.
 
kth
2013-11-17 07:57:10 PM
My husband is a college professor, and I'm in a corporate training department. The fallacy of the education types is that one size fits all. Lecture works... for some things. Self study works... for some things. Same for labs, socratic and virtual training. Hell, for the right topic, I'll even buy gamification.  The problem is that the powers that be (department chair, VP what have you) fall in love with one thing.

My current favorite thing is virtual classroom, BUT, it is not great for all of my classes. The upper level ones where we have a highly motivated audience, geographic diversity and few teachers, yes. But for the intro classes, no way. When we started doing virtual training they wanted all of the classes to be virtual. And bought a shiatload of software before figuring out the business case for it.

I'm currently working on selling the idea of Khan Academy style videos 6-8 minutes long for informal learning, short vignettes on limited topics. If you have enough diversity in the way you present training, you'll eventually get everyone except the utter morons.
 
2013-11-17 08:06:15 PM
Was this guy in the ADHD thread today too?

I keed.
 
2013-11-17 08:20:12 PM

axeeugene: demanding short periods of small group/class wide discussion


I hate teachers like you

/nothing personal
 
2013-11-17 08:20:41 PM

Ishkur: Depends who the lecturer is.

Some people are really boring. Some people are really entertaining. It helps if you're interested in the subject matter, too.


My WW1 history prof gave lectures like they were old time radio programmes. He would act out the parts wirh different voices for the major characters. It was amazing.
 
2013-11-17 08:27:08 PM

Bukharin: Ishkur: Depends who the lecturer is.

Some people are really boring. Some people are really entertaining. It helps if you're interested in the subject matter, too.

My WW1 history prof gave lectures like they were old time radio programmes. He would act out the parts wirh different voices for the major characters. It was amazing.


The best part about the teachers strike when I was in Junior High was my 70 year old principal getting to be a teacher again. He had us absolutely riveted in Social Studies class.
 
2013-11-17 08:27:21 PM
I think another issue that is glossed over (on the collegiate level at least) is the complete lack of necessity for most general education courses.  It seems silly to me that a student who wants to go to an accredited, not-for-profit school has to take 8 semesters of classes, half of which are entirely unrelated to their career path.  I mean, it makes some kind of sense for somebody who doesn't know what they want to do with their lives, but it hardly makes sense as a universal system of undergraduate education.  There has to be a better way, right?
 
2013-11-17 08:30:08 PM

Bukharin: Ishkur: Depends who the lecturer is.

Some people are really boring. Some people are really entertaining. It helps if you're interested in the subject matter, too.

My WW1 history prof gave lectures like they were old time radio programmes. He would act out the parts wirh different voices for the major characters. It was amazing.


My Psych 101 class was taught by a guy who worked as a psychologist in the prison system. Every lecture was an adventure in the perversions of the human mind. I LOVED that class. I also had an awesome Middle-Eastern humanities class that was co-taught by a Palestinian Muslim and an Israeli Jew. I think I liked every one of my lecture classes.
 
2013-11-17 08:31:17 PM

dfacto: Lectures only work for a small and specific subset of people.  Everyone else daydreams or sleeps. It was a necessary evil when books were scarce or expensive, but the information is always a click away today, making lectures a complete waste of time.


That was why the original universities were created. Because books were so farking expensive that it was cheaper for people to go and travel to Oxford to hear someone read it than to buy their own copy.

A senior academic in a UK university is still referred to as a "reader" because of this.

What keeps universities going is the accreditation of a degree, that when you leave you can point to what you've learnt. If it was just about the learning, no-one would bother. They'd buy books or watch videos.

In the last 3 companies that i've done freelance work, all of them are using Pluralsight for training. None are sending people off for 3 or 4 days to do training courses. When it's $25/month vs £1200/course, you can see why.
 
2013-11-17 08:43:57 PM
If only there were some way to determine how long the Socratic concept has been around....
 
2013-11-17 08:44:25 PM

ecmoRandomNumbers: Bukharin: Ishkur: Depends who the lecturer is.

Some people are really boring. Some people are really entertaining. It helps if you're interested in the subject matter, too.

My WW1 history prof gave lectures like they were old time radio programmes. He would act out the parts wirh different voices for the major characters. It was amazing.

My Psych 101 class was taught by a guy who worked as a psychologist in the prison system. Every lecture was an adventure in the perversions of the human mind. I LOVED that class. I also had an awesome Middle-Eastern humanities class that was co-taught by a Palestinian Muslim and an Israeli Jew. I think I liked every one of my lecture classes.


Weird, my hs psych teacher tried to get a job as a prison psychologist, but when he was turned down for not getting over his parents' death caused by a drunk driver, he moved to the town his parents died in and took a teaching job.  Seriously, he moved from TN to SC to teach 10 miles from the spot they died.  I couldn't stand the guy, but I took the class because the year prior I took Sociology and loved it.  I find I like observing people, and not in the creepy guy staring for long periods type of observing either.
 
2013-11-17 08:50:49 PM
Education of any kind only works for those who want to be educated. In almost any given classroom (aside from those at the extreme ends of the bell curve in terms of dry-dull-boring or completely engrossing) you've got a variety of different responses to the lesson style. Some hate being lectured at, while others love it. Some hate doing small group work, while others love it. Some enjoy whole group discussion (my method for my college students), while others don't get as much out of it. Etc...

Unless you teach yourself, you're going to come across classes and teachers you don't match up with. Whatever this guy is promoting, I guarantee he's going to make money on it. Some kids will like it, and some will hate it. The key is self-drive. If you WANT to do well, you'll find a way to do well. If you don't care... John Dewey teaching interactive sex-ed ain't going to get you going.

One of the best indicators of how many students are going to be engaged is how much the professor/teacher is in love with his/her content. I love history, so when I teach it, that passion comes through, and I bring along more students than other people who have tired of the topic and are burned out. As much as I've got students who enjoy what I do and how I do it, that percentage would drop precipitously if I were asked to teach Steinbeck or Melville.
 
2013-11-17 08:51:35 PM
I'm a professor and I hate lecturing  b/c I think it's ineffective (although I've been told I'm quite good at it), but I do it b/c I'm required to teach classes w/ 90+ students. What the hell else am I supposed to do?

Any class under 30 (and some larger) get a combination lecture/discussion/group work/student presentation class which I am convinced works 100X better.

I even had a class last semester where I ditched lecturing entirely and just did group discussion and student presentations.Ironically, the students hated me for it (they actually had to do work!), but they really learned the material.
 
2013-11-17 08:53:16 PM
I was an English BA, small class, liberal arts type, currently a teacher, but I loved a good lecture, and can't see anything wrong with people learning how to pay attention to a lecture, and then be tested on their retention and application of such.  Seems like a lot of people whine because they can't be arsed to get off their phones and pay attention for an hour (or whatever),

/DNRTFA
 
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