June 15, 2018
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5. The Demise of the Lecture?

Categories: Instructional Design for Teachers

The Demise of the Lecture?

Stanford University’s president recently predicted the death of the lecture.

But it’s not really about what I think. The students are rewriting the rules for us. That large lecture hall with nice banked seating and 300 people sitting with their attention focused on somebody standing in the front of the classroom is a model that lasted for many years, but the students have made it clear that that’s not a model they find particularly attractive anymore.

Instead, this generation is completely comfortable watching a video online; for them, it’s not markedly different than having a person up at the front of the classroom. They are happy using technology. They know how to hit the pause button; they know how to speed it up a little bit, to watch it 20 percent faster and make the process more efficient.

John Hennessy

 

John Hennessy of Stanford comments on the large lecture amphitheater. Image source: Gabriela Hasbun. Article source: Tekla S. Perry
John Hennessy of Stanford comments on the large lecture amphitheater. Image source: Gabriela Hasbun. Article source: Tekla S. Perry

 

 

Let’s see what others have to say…

 

The Yin/Yang of the Lecture: Yin

 

The last major technology innovation that truly disrupted the higher education model was the lecture, and that happened in medieval times. Innovation in higher education moves slowly.”

Daniel Pianko, University Ventures

 

 (O)ver the past three decades, though the technology has gotten more powerful and sophisticated, very little has changed, particularly in higher education. In fact, the structure and methodologies at most of today’s universities still follow a model established nearly a thousand years ago… with the founding of the University of Bologna, the world’s oldest university. As one observer noted, “Other than adding books, electricity, and women, [higher education] is still primarily an older person ‘lecturing’ to a set of younger ones…”

Technology Transforming Education:
4 Real-World Models of Success, December 2012

 

Who's Yin? What's Yang? Click or tap.
Who’s Yin? What’s Yang? Click or tap.

 

 The High Middle Ages, or the period roughly between the 11th and 14th centuries, was one of growth and development for the continent of Europe. More and more people left rural areas to settle in the city. Education became more widely available. Before long so many students flocked into monastic schools that monasteries had to devote some of their personnel entirely toward teaching one subject. One instructor, furthermore, couldn’t hope to reach every student in a class of 50 on an intimate level. Accordingly, they adopted a new approach: professors stood in front of an assembly of students and read from their notes. Before the advent of the printing press, lecturers might have referred to an institution’s single copy of a text from which to teach. While the method wasn’t as precise as manuscript reproduction, it was a pretty good alternative. (Article source)

Henry Kronk January 13, 2018

 

The Yin/Yang of the Lecture: Yang

 

A thousand years is a long time. Granted, change comes slowly to education, but the last forty years have seemed glacial to many. However, in a 2012 US Senate briefing on education and technology, a group of education experts noted that…

 

“…we are finally at a time where many factors are converging to overcome historic barriers: increasingly ubiquitous broadband, cheaper devices, digital content, cloud computing, big data, and generally higher levels of comfort with technology among the general population.”

Technology Transforming Education:
4 Real-World Models of Success, December 2012

 

Are we looking at the end of the large lecture hall, especially in tertiary institutions? Probably not. First, from an institutional perspective, having such lectures is most cost effective. When an IHE can mount a class of 450 students at one time in one place to teach courses such as Introduction to Psychology, the single session is equivalent to teaching twenty classes with 22.5 students in each. Fiscal resources saved by being “efficient” can then be used for other purposes.

Whether this is actually “good” or not is open to question: ask any of the 450 students in that course if they’re pleased and satisfied with the model.  Probably not. Ask the departmental Chair, and he or she may have no choice, given their budgets.  But it’s a “win” for the President of the institution.

Where would you rather teach? In a large lecture room? Or a small classroom? Different learning environments require varied instructional strategies. Click the following images for perspectives on large and small class sizes.

 

By Stephanie Long. Click or tap.
By Stephanie Long. Click or tap.

 

By Kelli Marshall, Instructor at DePaul University. Click or tap...
By Kelli Marshall, Instructor at DePaul University. Click or tap…

 

Hear a discussion between the then-governor of Massachusetts and UMASS students about the rising cost of tuition and fees. Source: Kirk Carapezza, WGBH.org. Click or tap.
Hear a discussion between the then-governor of Massachusetts and UMASS students about the rising cost of tuition and fees. Source: Kirk Carapezza, WGBH.org. Click or tap.

 

Who’s Kirk Carapezza?

Kirk is a reporter for the NPR member station in Boston, WGBH, where he covers higher education, connecting the dots between post-secondary education and the economy, national security, jobs and global competitiveness.

Kirk has been a reporter with Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis.; a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. When he’s not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K’s on the Wall at Fenway. You can follow Kirk on Twitter  @KirkCarapezza.

 

Administrating a college or university is somewhat akin to running a small town, perhaps even a small city. There’re always other needs to be underwritten. Instruction is just one of the priorities, unfortunately. When we think of lectures, especially those offered in large lecture halls, we most often consider the way the material is portrayed, the media transmitted, and features of the lecture hall like its acoustics and the comfort of the chairs.

We rarely consider the fact that the audience has a built-in variability in terms of how each individual best learns. Annie Murphy Paul spoke to this factor at some length in her recent article in the monthly Brilliant Report series. Does the college lecture discriminate? Is it biased against undergraduates who are not white, male and affluent?

The notion may seem absurd on its face. The lecture is an old and well-established tradition in education. To most of us, it simply is the way college courses are taught. Even online courses are largely conventional lectures uploaded to the web.

Yet a growing body of evidence suggests that the lecture is not generic or neutral, but a specific cultural form that favors some people while discriminating against others, including women, minorities and low-income and first-generation college students.

In her article, Annie cites a number of recent studies that indicate that the “sea of faces” known as the audience respond differentially to various instructional strategies, and that background and past experience can play a powerful role in terms of how well and how effective lectures are for different sub-groups of the audience. Clearly, for some students, the lecture has already demised.

 

Annie Murphy Paul’s article on “Who does best in lecture courses?” Source: The Brilliant Report distributed by MailChimp.com. Click or tap.
Annie Murphy Paul’s article on “Who does best in lecture courses?” Source: The Brilliant Report distributed by MailChimp.com. Click or tap.

 

Did you know that sharks existed while dinosaurs roamed the Earth? The dinosaurs are gone but the sharks remain. How is that so? Grit? Tenacity? Neville draws parallels between this evolutionary model and the endurance of lectures and textbooks. Source: Neville Morley (@NevilleMorley). Click or tap.
Did you know that sharks existed while dinosaurs roamed the Earth? The dinosaurs are gone but the sharks remain. How is that so? Grit? Tenacity? Neville draws parallels between this evolutionary model and the endurance of lectures and textbooks. Source: Neville Morley (@NevilleMorley). Click or tap.

 

 

Ryan Craig and Allison Williams forecast the future unbundling of colleges and universities, and discuss current issues that are pushing IHEs in that direction. Source: EduCause Review. Click or tap.
Ryan Craig and Allison Williams forecast the future unbundling of colleges and universities, and discuss current issues that are pushing IHEs in that direction. Source: EduCause Review. Click or tap.

 

In other industries, unbundling has driven fundamental change. Over the past decade, sales of recorded music are down 50 percent and continue to fall each year. Digital technology has forced a revolution in a business model that, in the past, relied on bundling the music that consumers wanted (singles) with the music that they didn’t want (the rest of the album). Now, in a music industry unbundled by technology, consumers purchase only the products they want. In the television industry, viewers now watch individual shows, thanks to DVRs and Netflix, rather than channels or networks. Many viewers are no longer even aware of which networks air their favorite shows. Once viewers are given a mechanism for paying only for the shows they watch rather than the thousands they don’t, cable and satellite TV bills will collapse.

Where does this leave the higher education bundle? At present, degrees remain the currency of the labor market. But as currency, they’re about as portable as the giant stone coins used on the island of Yap. What if technology could produce a finer currency that would be accepted by consumers and employers alike?

Ryan Craig and Allison Williams

 

And speaking of budgets, it’s not uncommon for even public schools to shutter their doors due to financial issues.  I remember that last February, the city of Everett, adjacent to Boston, laid off 110 teachers just after Valentines Day! Everett just happened to be my first teaching post.

 

EVERETT (CBS) – The city of Everett has told 110 public school employees they will be laid off next week because of an $8 million budget deficit. Of the 110, 58 are teachers, most of them at the high school.  Their last day will be Friday, February 16. Everett Superintendent Frederick Foresteire told WBZ-TV the layoffs are coming in the middle of the school year because they would have serious financial issues at the end of the year if the school system continued to provide services at the current rate. The administration plans to ask the city for more money to help close the budget gap. Click or tap.
EVERETT (CBS) – The city of Everett has told 110 public school employees they will be laid off next week because of an $8 million budget deficit. Of the 110, 58 are teachers, most of them at the high school.  Their last day will be Friday, February 16. Everett Superintendent Frederick Foresteire told WBZ-TV the layoffs are coming in the middle of the school year because they would have serious financial issues at the end of the year if the school system continued to provide services at the current rate. The administration plans to ask the city for more money to help close the budget gap. Click or tap.

 

Global Study: U.S. Educators Spend More Hours Teaching But Wide Pay Gap Remains. By Tim Walker. Tap or click.
Global Study: U.S. Educators Spend More Hours Teaching But Wide Pay Gap Remains. By Tim Walker. Tap or click.

 

 

It could be worse, though, and often is, particularly for rural districts,  Lean budgets, withering numbers of school-age children and other demographics combine forces so that…

Schools closed. Forever. Source: NY Times.com. Click or tap.

 

Bottom Line: Instruction is not always the sole priority of a lot of educational institutions. And, aside for faculty salaries, instruction is not funded to the magnitude of other priorities — say, sports. With any luck, most — but not all – schools make it to the end of the school year…

 

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Check out some of the magazines associated with this blog entry’s content!

 

Educational Evolution. Click or tap.
Educational Evolution. Click or tap.

 


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