Lectures given in this academic year: 20 so far
Times I’ve been unnerved by the students’ response: 20, I’m afraid!
As I have been employed as a ‘lecturer’ it is a pretty good assumption that lecturing will form a central part of my job. I expected this and despite having little experience previously I plunged into the world of the 50 minute undergraduate lecture with relative ease. From a teaching point of view they can take a while to prepare and are especially challenging if on a subject away from one’s specialism, but it’s from the students’ perspective that I find lectures rather…well, difficult really!
The traditional lecturing format is familiar to almost everyone who has attended an institution of higher education. The lecturer stands at the front and pontificates for just under an hour on an agreed subject, perhaps showing pictures or doing demonstrations. The role of the students is to sit quietly, listen and take notes. Some lecturers do allow interactive tasks, but many offer no participation at all, simply finishing the lecture saying ‘any questions?’ in a tone that almost forbids any student to say anything! When I lecture, I often catch my students’ eyes and it becomes obvious that they are not listening at all and are just staring out of the window! It’s ironic that most academics recognize the pedagogical pitfalls of the lecture (i.e. it’s impossible to tell whether the students have learned anything whatsoever during that hour) but few, including me, have done anything to break its hold on university life.
So perhaps it’s time for us to think about other ways of lecturing, making lectures more exciting, interactive, student friendly, and frankly, useful. This will be harder than it seems for, of course, students like lectures too! They like being required to do nothing other than scribble notes and they like being told what’s what by an authority figure rather than finding things out for themselves. But there’s no harm in addressing alternatives, and even if you are not in a permanent job but searching for one, thinking about this issue could help you stand out from the other candidates. Showing that you have thought seriously about teaching methods will appeal to many institutions and departments, so give it a go, and be as creative as you can! Anyone who has an innovative lecturing method they would like to share…please reply to this blog post!