Interactive lecturing

Posted by @BillByers on March 11, 2014, 9:46 p.m.

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Lecturing dates back to mediaeval times and the founding of Europe’s earliest universities.  Initially, lectures amounted to little more than a ‘lecturer’ standing at the front and reading a book to the students who were merely required to listen to the reader and write down the information imparted word for word. At this time, of course, books were very rare and students were very unlikely to have direct access to a text. Fortunately times have changed, books are now readily available at reasonable prices and the arrival of the digital age and the internet means that information is both plentiful and readily available to those who know where to look. There should, therefore, no longer be a need to make copies of books by listening and writing. Nevertheless, lecturing in its traditional form has remained a major component of many university chemistry teaching programmes and at its worst still amounts to little more than the lecturer reading a prepared manuscript to the assembled audience. In fact, throughout the twentieth century, lecturing tended to be focused primarily on a process of simple information transfer, what we might call a ‘Passive Diffusion Model of Knowledge Transfer’. This teacher centred approach involved the lecturer showering knowledge over the students who were merely required to absorb it. Teachers believed that they had knowledge to impart and the better they lectured the better their students would learn. Unfortunately, learning like teaching is an active process, so demoting learners to this very passive role tends to be ineffective. If we wish to improve student learning we, therefore, need to increase their involvement in the learning process. Any approach which seeks to increase student involvement beyond simply listening and writing is an example of ‘Interactive Lecturing’ and has the potential to enhance both the quantity and the quality of the learning it promotes.


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