Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Case Against the Lecture Format

In a recent article/story from National Public Radio this week, "Physicists Seek To Lose The Lecture As Teaching Tool," Emily Hanford reports that scientists from various universities are changing their teaching methods because of the inefficacy of the lecture format. The link above provides the article, and you can also listen to the story as it ran on NPR stations.

As Hanford relates, "[t]his is something many people have known intuitively for a long time — the physicists just came up with the hard data. Their work, along with research by cognitive scientists, provides a compelling case against lecturing."

The story highlights what Professor Mazur calls "peer instruction," which also could be labeled "active learning."

And the article also provides a link to a documentary series by Hanford titled Don't Lecture Me.

I hope these links and programs provide readers something to think about, but I'd also like to note that the Writing Center and the pedagogy of Writing Across the Curriculum provide learning platforms that do not espouse the lecture format. 

Put simply, writing consultants (tutors) at the EIU Writing Center offer something akin to Mazur's "peer instruction." While consultants obviously don't grade students' papers, they provide solid feedback about their ideas and drafts while considering the rhetorical principles of audience, purpose, genre, and style, among many other important considerations such as supporting evidence, use of sources, and sentence-level concerns.

Also connected to the science professors who are changing their teaching methods, Writing Across the Curriculum offers pedagogical strategies and tactics that move away from the "sage on the stage" role.

Below are some links from EIU's Writing Across the Curriculum webpage that professors, students, and aspiring educators might find helpful. These links, along with many others, can be found on the "Resources for Faculty" page:

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