Lectures versus active learning

Pickles, Matt (2016), ‘Shouldn’t lectures be obsolete by now?’, BBC News: Business, 23rd November 2016 (oneline) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38058477 [accessed 23.11.2016]

I read an article on the BBC News Business pages today.  The author, Matt Pickles, expresses surprise that the lecture format persists, despite demonstrable evidence that they’re often not the most effective way of teaching students, and that active learning works much better.  Some universities are catching on, but it seems others aren’t bothered, because they’re more concerned about their scholars’ research profile than their teaching skills.

That’s not true at my institution – for a start, we’re a conservatoire, so whether you “do research” or are an expert practitioner and perhaps don’t consider your practice as research, much of the work is practice-based in any case.  And secondly – we wouldn’t be studying for PGCerts if we didn’t think teaching was important!

I’m a bit atypical in being a musicologist, and although I like to get my research performed, my research isn’t actually in performance or composition.  I’m also atypical (oh, I love being a nonconformist!) in studying for a PGCert with the aim of improving my teaching for the librarianship side of my work first and foremost. My research takes place on one day a week, and any spare home time I can fling at it, but I only get rare opportunities to teach my research interest.

But what I can say is that I much prefer to speak to groups small enough to be able to converse with students rather than lecture them.  And if I’m teaching how to use e-resources, or bibliographic /referencing skills, it’s infinitely easier with a group or even a single student.  You can’t converse in a lecture, and my minor hearing impairment makes it even more difficult.  (Why would I pose a question to people at the back of a lecture theatre, when I probably couldn’t hear their reply?!)

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