Lecturing video transcript

The lecture theatre in this photo probably seats 200 odd students. It doesn’t take this many students sitting in front of you in rows, before you find yourself starting to lecture!

You can find that with as few as 30 odd students, in a room with tiered seating like this, students take on the role of sitting quite passively, listening and taking notes. It’s going to be quite hard to know what’s going on in their heads, how well they are concentrating. It’s hard to put ourselves in their shoes and remember that although I might be doing this for 4 or 5 hours each week, students might be in this kind of environment 4-5 hours a day. I know what’s going on in my head. I’m looking for windows, and wondering about the trade off of opening them for air, but getting noise in. My voice is quite strong but I’m wondering if it will be difficult for students right at the back to hear me. I’m thinking that I’d like to ask some questions, but if I do, will I get a response? Will students find it hard to speak up in this kind of environment? If they do, will they be audible? I’m wondering how well this lecture is preparing them for out of class activity, for their own independent study. How good is their notetaking? And what are they doing on their mobile phones?

I’m aware that I’m competing against distractions. Students can access information from multiple online sources – maybe even while I’m talking! I can’t ignore the technology they are using. Carrie (2008) – American study – showed that students who used laptops in class spent considerable time multitasking and that the laptop use posed a significant distraction to both users and fellow students. Most importantly, the level of laptop use was negatively related to several measures of student learning, including self-reported understanding of course material and overall course performance. These are the kinds of things I’m thinking about, the questions I have, as I walk into the lecture theatre. I’d like you to pause the video now and spend a couple of minutes writing down the questions you have about lecturing…. See for example: Tomas Lindroth, Magnus Bergquist, Laptopers in an educational practice: Promoting the personal learning situation, Computers & Education, Volume 54, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 311-320 Carrie B. Fried, In-class laptop use and its effects on student learning, Computers & Education, Volume 50, Issue 3, April 2008, Pages 906-914

Welcome back. I tried to anticipate here some of the questions you might ask – they are quite broad to encompass I hope, many of your questions. They come down to Why do we do it? How do we do it well? What difference does it make?

I’m sorry, but I think the main reason that we lecture is tradition – originally lectures were there to share the content of books

But, we’ve come a long way since then – there are other ways of sharing the content of books! We’ve come right through library full of shelves…
to a dependence on electronic sources… These quotes come from students who kept audio diaries about the ways they used technology in one of the first studies on learners’ experiences of e-leaning. Grainne Conole and her colleagues found that even in 2006: - Google and Wikipedia were students’ preferred information retrieval tools…. - Because students see university library resources as much harder to search. - Many students still poor in effective information search and evaluation From Conole, de Laat, M., Dillon , ,T & Darby, J. (2006) LXP Final Report at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/publications/lxpfinalreport.aspx

In 2008 the ‘google generation’ study also found that although the ‘Google Generation' – youngsters born or brought up in the Internet age – demonstrate an apparent ease and familiarity with computers, they rely heavily on search engines, view rather than read and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the web. This lack of information skills is a particular problem as there is so much to know… All disciplines rest on a knowledge base. “Old” disciplines have had a long time to accrue knowledge. “New” disciplines draw from many different knowledges. Huge increase in all disciplines of facts, information, stuff “To just read all the laws passed by Parliament would take 60 years.” a Brookes law lecturer, 2001 “The half life of new knowledge in Engineering is 18 months”

Many taxonomies list higher order thinking that university work is supposed to encourage. Bloom, for example, lists 6 cognitive [thinking] skills and claims they are each dependent on and subsume the one lower down the hierarchy. The cognitive skills are: Knowledge Understanding Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation. Others argue that deep learning means moving to the higher levels of understanding and that by seeking analysis, for example, you will also gain knowledge and understanding. Ramsden, P. (2003) Learning to Teach in Higher Education, RoutledgeFarmer Gibbs, G. (1992) Lecturing to More Students, OCSLD, Oxford.

Why “lots of content”? Different answers in different disciplines. Often, pre-requisites I often hear these kinds of comments, linked to frustration that the students cannot see the connection between content and application. So, there’s lots to know.. How can we help students with all this content? Are lectures the answer?

How can teachers help students to learn content? Traditionally, we lecture.. But Bligh’s review shows that this is no better than other methods.

What are the problems with using lectures to learn content? #1 Students need to know what you want them to learn What students often want out of lectures, more than anything else, is a good set of notes. They need to know, in detail, what it is they are supposed to learn and they need notes to support their study and the assignments they tackle. But Bligh (chapter on note-taking) shows that students are quite poor at note taking: either selecting the important points to be noted down, accuracy and amount. This is often due to information overload. That said, lots of studies that show positive link between note taking and memory.

In order to learn content from lectures students need to be able to summarise, paraphrase, make meaning from new information coming in, integrate with what they know already. This is hard, especially when there is no pause button in a live lecture. When new information in coming in, through multiple channels, we know that students often revert to the emergency, fall back position of trying to record what is being said – in order to ‘learn’ it later.

The second problem with lectures is that there is an enormous amount of content already available online. When students can access lectures from experts in the field from around the globe, at a time and place of that is convenient to them, why do they need to come to our lectures? How do we help students to make good choices about what to attend and how to use this kind of additional content? We know that attendance at lectures is … what shall we say? … variable. There is evidence that it falls for the first five weeks of a course and then remains at about 50% for the rest of the semester (see Donald Clarke’s keynote to ALTC 2010). How can we claim that lectures are the best place to transfer content, when half the audience isn’t even there?

The third, and final problem I’m going to talk about is that it is difficult to maintain attention in lectures. If you have time, watch the ‘Anyone, anyone?’ clips from Ferris Bueller’s Day off movie on YouTube Eg: 

While teachers are lecturing, students are not attending to what is being said 40% of the time. See Prince, M. (2004) Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. Journal of Engineering Education. 93(3), 223-231.

So, what can you do? At a basic level, your starting points should be to Increase attention by taking breaks Encourage active engagement during the session with activities Encourage rehearsal soon after the session

So, we have clearly moved a long way from the original purpose of the lecture to share the content of a few books. We have moved from the time even when the lecture was a way of giving access to the knowledge of the lecturer. So, attendance is poor, attention is poor, remembering is poor. Access to content is free and easy. Remind me again why we lecture content? What are the alternatives? What could we be doing instead of lecturing content?

So, why do we lecture? Or perhaps – why should we still be lecturing in the information age? I’ve shown 3 problems with lecturing, which I hope show why we shouldn’t be lecturing for transfer of content. So, what alternative reasons are there? Here are some better reasons for lectures, based on Based on Cashin in Fry et al, p 84 …… One lecturer said to me that they used lectures only to cover the hard things. To only cover what students can’t learn through read about. That she trained students early on not expect to avoid reading by attending lectures….. That lectures and reading were not interchangeable… (incidentally, she found the hardest challenge was to find and recommend readable texts for pre-reading before lectures, not the design/preparation of the lectures themselves). We need to help students understand that what we expect them to do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER lectures.

Lecturing through questions and peer instruction e.g Engineering at Strathclyde University http://www.elearning.ac.uk/innoprac/practitioner/strathclyde.html Physics with Eric Mazur at Harvard University Eric Mazur ‘confessions of a converted lecturer’ on YouTube at:

History with Monica Rankin at University of Texas, see http://www.utdallas.edu/~mrankin/usweb/twitterconclusions.htm

I like these example because they… Use what is known in psychology of learning (e.g. attention, working memory, cognitive overload). Use techniques which promote questions, questioning, peer instruction. Encourage students to review materials (e.g. notes, tweets, recorded lectures I wouldn’t underestimate the challenge of designing lectures in which students can learn effectively. I think it’s huge challenge for engaged and knowledgeable academics – we may not even remember the hard work of learning things we now know so well. What made us learn them? Usually, we did so not by listening to lectures but by using the facts, applying the knowledge, solving real problems and assembling the information to inform and strengthen an argument….. Our challenge is to prepare lectures where we can engage students in those kind of productive activities.

Last modified: Wednesday, 3 April 2013, 02:11 PM