Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Why Lecture?

Since a lot of my research is related to education, I often find myself presenting or teaching to fellow lecturers, and I often reflect on the real benefit of lecturing. Lecturing is a fairly difficult task, public-speaking is said to be one of the most stressful things you can do, and a lecturer or teacher has to do that every day, so what are the benefits to lecturing?

I've put together a list of possible reasons as to why we lecture and some suggestions to help these work more effectively.

1. To enthuse students
One very effective way to do this is when a lecturer puts themselves in the student's shoes, and considers what it is like to encounter the teaching material for the first time (although it may be the hundredth time for the lecturer) and is open to new suggestions and approaches by the students.

2. To give students the information that they need
It is important to remember that handouts can give 10 times more material than just direct chalk-and-talk, but so a mixed approach works best (but make sure handouts have lots of free space for note taking).

3. To cover the syllabus
To cover it in a meaningful manner give the students time to reflect and revise. So stop teaching for the last couple of weeks and get students to reflect and revise.

4. To give the student group a sense of identity
By getting the students to do group work and group assessments, they will form teams and groups.

5. Because it’s cost-effective to teach large groups
And this can still work for the teacher, so instead of throwing out questions to students (as some may be intimidated) ask students to spend the next 3 minutes writing down the three most important ideas we’ve been talking about, and spend a minute comparing their answers to their neighbours and look for 5 volunteers. Also rather than getting the students to ask questions; at end of class get the students to write down their questions on slips of paper and answer these at start of next class or on-line using a discussion board.

6. To help map curriculum
The lecturer must signpost the course. Show the students the syllabus, including the learning outcomes. Number the topics instead of bulletpointing them.

7. To see how the students are doing
This is the easiest and most fun part, look at their faces, see if they are learning. Also handout your slides, with the first slide having questions about the previous lecture - spend 5 minutes of lecture getting the students to answer.

8. To change student beliefs
By sharing your experience, and adding in expert views with existing theories and other students' ideas you can change their beliefs. Also make the student’s learning active, when students apply their ideas, it becomes their knowledge.

9. To help students learn
For a few minutes ask the students to reflect on HOW they are learning. Share with others their approaches, their triumphs and disasters. Also stop the class for a few minutes and discuss their note-making techniques. Or ask the students to write down 3 things they don’t yet know about a topic and want to learn, and amalgamate these lists and hand to the lecturer.

10. To help students figure out what the lecturer is going to ask in the exam
Students need to be more strategic about assessment, it is an intelligent response to their situation. But you just need to help them figure out your culture of assessment, but not every little facet of it.

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