Where Do Lectures Fit Into 21st Century Learning?

Current educational technology is a bit of a moving target, and it's difficult to pinpoint how it will impact the role of teachers in the classroom. A common fear is that both online courses and new in-class approaches will replace teachers, with students learning from a screen.  While this fear is largely unfounded, its not unreasonable to predict that the way teachers deliver theory will be impacted. The one-directional, "sage on the stage" model of lectures will probably morph into something else.  Here's why we're excited about this:

  • More and more, especially in STEM subjects, hands-on, applied learning is being held as the gold standard. It's no longer enough for students to memorize and repeat theory. If they're to be successful outside of school, they need to know how to think, not what to think. Lectures don't always support this.
  • It may never have been the case that lectures were the most effective way to teach. A large number of students require different approaches. Although the discipline and attentiveness demanded by lectures are both valuable, there are other, more effective ways to help a diverse group of learners develop skills.
  • Lectures don't leave as much room for collaboration as other approaches. Group projects and social media have become valuable teaching and learning tools.
  • Lectures are hard for educators as well. Filling up to three hours of time involves significant planning and searching for resources. Many educators find it easier, more effective, and more rewarding to be able to converse and interact with students.

Phasing out traditional lecture format isn't without its challenges. Doing so makes it more difficult to address large groups of students at once, and an investment of time and resources is required in order to make the switch. However, with the right technology and support, a transition can be made easier, without diminishing the importance of having a knowledgeable, engaging teacher at the helm.

Amy Leask is VP of Enable Education and Communications Manager of Infinite Octopus.