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Do You Have To Lecture Me?

In a recent post, Larry Cuban offers a compact and interesting overview of two instructional mainstays, used by teachers for millennia: lecturing and questioning. And he believes both will be around for centuries more to come.

They are flexible and adaptable teaching techniques. With all of the concern for student-centered inquiry and using tougher questions based upon Bloom’s taxonomy, one enduring function of schooling is to transfer academic knowledge and skills (both technical and social) to the next generation. Social beliefs in transmitting knowledge as a primary purpose of schooling remain strong and abiding. [emphasis mine]

I would question his “one enduring function of schooling”, but that’s something to rant about another time.

When it comes to lecturing, the people who are best at it go far beyond just transmitting information.  They weave stories, entertain, and inspire. They are the people who deliver keynotes at conferences, offer motivational seminars, present TED talks, and sometimes give political stump speeches.

That Huge Lecture Theatre!

Unfortunately, far too few of the really good ones are teaching in high school and college classrooms. And, when it comes to lecturing as teaching technique, I’m not sure the technique has ever been all that effective for learning.

Although Cuban only fleetingly mentions the impact of evolving technologies over the centuries, the tools developed in just the past decade or so have dramatically decreased the necessity of using lecture for instruction, certainly in high schools.

The best presentations by those best lecturers can be easily archived and used by anyone in any class setting.

More importantly, those with something to say but with other skills can create compelling video and audio programs that convey information even more effectively, and entertaining and inspiring at the same time.

Cuban is probably right that the use of lecture as a teaching technique will probably continue long past the time we’re talking about 22nd century skills (which will probably start any day now :-).

However, with any luck, it will be increasingly confined to only those who do it well, while the rest of us develop our capacity to inform and communicate using the many and growing number of other instruments available.

Image: That Huge Lecture Theater! by teddy-rised on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

1 Comment

  1. Utz, The Crab Chip

    I would also like to point out that keynote speakers, motivational speakers and TED presenters often take MONTHS to craft a 20-30 minute presentation.

    Teachers get maybe 45 minutes to throw together an hour long presentation, then have to repeat the process 180 times.

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