Debating the Lecture: What is the place of the lecture in today’s education? Discuss.

For many generations the ‘lecture’ has been the predominant method to deliver content to students. In 1706, the term was described as “to address severely and at length”. It has been historically attributed to sitting for a long time and listening to one person speak, “at length” on a topic of expertise.

Yet how effective is this method of teaching? It clearly has been used for centuries and there are experts with exceptional knowledge on important subjects. Is there a more effective way for the learner to access and process knowledge, within a meaningful context?

The arguments for lecturing would be things like:

It makes sure all the content is covered

You can tell many people the same thing at the same time

It encourages note taking and summarising key points

In reality, the main advantage of the lecture is that it reaches many students with the same content within one economical time slot. It may be successful in the delivery of curriculum/course material, but how effective is it in engaging learners?

How effective are lectures?

Long lectures fail to give sufficient time for students to process information

For many, listening and note taking are mutually exclusive activities

Lectures assume the one-size-fits-all learning model

They are an economical way to fulfill required hours for a subject

Lectures focus on the teachers teaching, rather than the learners learning.

My challenge to you is that rather than dismiss the lecture entirely, or unilaterally uphold its place as an essential element within a student’s education, take some time to consider a few questions:

What does my intuition and experience tell me about the place of the lecture for learning?

What is the optimal length of concentration and reasonable cognitive load of the student?

Do I lecture mainly for its pragmatic/time efficient benefits?

What is the most effective balance teacher talking and students doing?

There may well be a place for the lecture in education today, but as with everything, we must challenge our default position and consider the effectiveness through the lens of the learner.

2 thoughts on “Debating the Lecture: What is the place of the lecture in today’s education? Discuss.

  1. Anne I wonder if posting a video of the “lecture” where the students can access it anywhere anytime is part of the solution to the lecture issue. Allowing the teacher to individualise student learning.


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