The Old Standby

Teaching has changed…we are now expected to incorporate social media, instructional activities, flipped classrooms, digital games, online instruction, and so on.  But there is a time when a good “old-fashioned” lecture is appropriate and beneficial to the learners.  But lecturing cannot simply be an instructor blathering away to the students from the front of the class.  Brookfield (2015) suggests that lectures have their place in the classroom and can be helpful in specific scenarios.  For example, they might be helpful to establish a general outline of course content, to explain concepts that may be difficult to understand, to introduce different perspectives, to promote learner interest, and to provide a model for the students (attitudes and behaviors).

I’m sure everyone has had lecture experiences that range from exciting and engaging to mind-numbingly boring.  So what is it that makes a lecture “good”?  In my own experience, I’ve enjoyed lectures more when the instructor is dynamic – moving around the room and enthusiastic about the material they are teaching.  The content was explained clearly in a way that was easy to understand.  A stimulating lecture generally also involves some dialogue between the instructor and the students, and generates interest and excitement in the learners.

I found it interesting that in Brookfield’s (2015) discussion on characteristics of helpful lectures, he actually mentions a lot of activities that I would consider to be outside of what a lecture is.  Suggestions such as having students complete a one-minute paper, using buzz groups, classroom response systems (like clickers), providing scaffolding notes were all given.  I feel like Brookfield hasn’t really commented on lecturing itself, rather he has made recommendations on how to keep students interested in the lecture.  That’s not to say I disagree with him, I was just surprised to see that his chapter on lecturing included a lot of other methods that could become part of a lecture.  I guess that’s what he means by lecturing “creatively”…

Reference: Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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