We’re in the final stretch of the spring semester here at school, so I thought I’d repost this. Though I still feel the same way about lecturing, the economics of being a teacher at a state-supported University make it difficult to get away from this traditional style of teaching. I’ve made some progress, but it’s been messy and unsatisfying for me. (Probably for my students, too.)

Perhaps if some like-minded people got together to write a grant for an experiment that would measure learning that eschew lecture….

Here’s the repost:

This jumped out at me in my Buzz feed this morning, so I chased it to its home at Jeff Jarvis’s blog, BuzzMachine. When the tag #highered, Jeff Jarvis (author of What Would Goggle Do) and the word ‘bullshit’ (cf. Frankfurt’s book) get together, you know you’ve got something good on your hands. So I read with high expectations. They were met.

Jarvis’s post decries the lecture.

I don’t want to summarize or repeat from Jarvis says. If you’re interested in education, you need to read his post. It’s short and doesn’t have many big words, so in that way it’s an easy read. In other ways, he shares an opinion that is difficult to hear.

He calls the lecture method of teaching an anachronism, and his message complements that in the literature on student learning. Data shows that of all the modes of learning that could be employed in higher education, the lecture is the least effective fostering genuine learning.

But the problem is that [by lecturing] we start at the end, at what we think students should learn, prescribing and preordaining the outcome: We have the list of right answers. We tell them our answers before they’ve asked the questions. We drill them and test them and tell them they’ve failed if they don’t regurgitate back our lectures as lessons learned. That is a system built for the industrial age, for the assembly line, stamping out everything the same: students as widgets, all the same.

The lecture corrals students into intellectual conformity and marginalizes creative thinking.

The good news is that it appears we’re at a point of convergence. The open curriculum movement and the availability of multimedia lectures online give all teachers the tools necessary to reduce the amount of time they lecture in a course and increase the time and effort devoted to higher-impact teaching methods. Pretty convenient, eh?

But there are great forces arrayed against those that try to move higher education in the direction of such progress and innovation. Two forces are higher education and students. I talk a little about this here (fourth paragraph) so I won’t repeat it. This opposition has massive inertia, but it can be steered. We just need idealistic practitioners, visionary administrators, funding, and lots of people who agree with Jarvis cheering us on from the sidelines.

For those who are interested in joining the charge in the direction of redesigning higher education, you will be glad to know that others have blazed the trail already. For example, the National Center for Academic Transformation champions this effort and can help people get started.

Bully for you, Jeff, for bringing other people into this conversation. You’re right on target with your message, and you’re helping people see how it can be done. What we’re doing now might have worked in the industrial age, but it’s ‘bullshit’ in the 21st century. We can and should be doing better by our students. There’s too much at stake.