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Teaching tips

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Дата конвертации01.07.2012
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THE lecture is probably the oldest teaching method and still the method most widely used in American colleges and uni­versities. Through the ages a great deal of practical wisdom about techniques of lecturing has accumulated. It is probable that the most effective lecturers utilize this accumulated wisdom plus their own talents in ways that are close to maximally effective. Effective lecturers combine the talents of scholar, writer, pro­ducer, comedian, showman, and teacher in ways that contribute to student learning. Nevertheless, it is also true that few college professors combine these talents in optimal ways and that even the best lecturers are not always in top form.

Why have lectures survived since the invention of print? Why have they persisted in the face of the intrusions of radio, televi­sion, computers, and other media? Is the lecture an effective method of teaching? If it is, under what conditions is it most effective? These questions will be answered not only in light of research on the lecture as a teaching method but also in terms of analyses of the information-processing techniques used by stu­dents in learning from lectures.
Research on the Effectiveness of Lectures

A large number of studies have compared the effectiveness of lectures with other teaching methods. When measures of knowledge are used, the lecture proves to be as efficient as other methods. Alternatively, in those experiments involving measures of reten­tion of information after the end of a course, measures of transfer of knowledge to new situations, or measures of problem solving, thinking, or attitude change, or motivation for further learning, the results tend to show differences favoring discussion methods over lecture (McKeachie, Pintrich, Lin, Smith, and Sharma, 1990).

^ What Are Lectures Good For?


We do not need to lecture when concepts are available in printed form at an appropriate level for our students. In general, print presents information in a form which can be covered more rapidly and in a way more accessible for retrieval than lectures. Students using printed materials can choose their own rate of learning: they can review, they can skip; they can vary the order. The lecturer thus starts with some serious handicaps; however, not all information is available in printed form. For example, most printed sources available to college and university teachers for assignment to students are at least several years out of date by the time they are available for assignments.
Lectures are particu­larly appropriate for helping students get up-to-date information on current research and theories relevant to topics they are study­ing. Moreover, lecturers may sometimes usefully summarize material scattered over a variety of printed sources, thus provid­ing a more efficient method of conveying information than it stu­dents were to be assigned to cover these sources by their own rending. Finally, a lecturer can adapt material to the background and interests of a particular audience—-material which in printed form is at a level or in a style not well suited to a particular class.

Lectures also can provide structures to help students read more effectively. In fact the lecture may help students learn to read. Readability of material depends on the expectations brought to material by the reader. Thus, appropriate lectures can build structures and expectations that help students read material in the given subject-matter area more effectively.

Lectures also have indirect values apart from their cognitive content. Many lectures have important motivational functions. By helping students become aware of a problem, of conflicting points of view, or of challenges to ideas they have previously taken for granted, the lecturer can stimulate interest in further learning in an area. Moreover, the lecturer's own attitudes and enthusiasm have an important effect upon student motivation. Research on student ratings of teaching as well as on student learning indicates that the enthusiasm of the lecturer is an impor­tant factor in effecting student learning and motivation. Not only is the lecturer a model in terms of motivation and curiosity, the lecturer also models ways of approaching problems, portraying a scholar in action in ways that are difficult for other media or methods of instruction to achieve. In fact there is some evidence suggesting that one of the advantages of live professors is the ten­dency of people to model themselves after other individuals whom they perceive as living, breathing human beings with char­acteristics that can be admired and emulated.

Finally, there are values in lecturing for professors them­selves. Although there is little direct evidence on the point, there is certainly anecdotal evidence, as well as supporting psychologi­cal theory, suggesting that preparing and delivering a lecture is an important factor in the professor's ability to integrate and retrieve the subject matter.
A Little Bit of Theory

The preceding section has included a good bit of theory of learn­ing and motivation, but I want to be more explicit about one aspect of the cognitive theory of learning and memory. As I noted in the preceding chapter, memory depends heavily on the learner's activity—thinking about and elaborating on new knowledge. A key difference between modern theories of memory and earlier theory is that earlier theory thought of knowledge as sin­gle associations, in some ways like tucking each bit of knowledge into a pigeonhole. Now we think of knowledge as being stored in structures such as networks with linked concepts, facts, and prin­ciples. The lecture thus needs to build a bridge between what is in the students' minds and the structures in the subject matter. Metaphors, examples, and demonstrations are the elements of the bridge. Providing a meaningful organization is thus a key func­tion of the lecture.

^ How Can Lectures Be Improved?

The message of this chapter is that one way of improving lecture is to think about how students process lectures. What are students trying to do during a lecture?

As one looks at students at a lecture and observes then behavior, the most impressive thing one notices is the passive role students have in most classrooms. Some students are having difficulty in staying awake; others are attempting to pass the time easily as possible by reading other materials, counting lecture mannerisms, or simply doodling and listening in a relatively effortless manner. Many students are taking notes.


One of the factors determining students' success in information processing is their ability to attend to the lecture. Attention basi­cally involves focusing one's cognitions upon those things which are changing, novel, or motivating. We know that individuals have a limited capacity for attending to the varied features of their environment The individual's total capacity for attention may vary with the degree of activation or motivation. At any one time part of the capacity is devoted to the task at hand (in this case listening to the lecturer), part is monitoring other aspects of the classroom, and part of the attention capacity may be available for other uses—in other words, it is simply spare capacity.

Hartley and Davies' (1978) review notes that studies of the attention of students during lectures find that, typically, attention increases from the beginning of the lecture to ten minutes into the lecture and decreases after that point. They found that after the lecture students recalled 70 percent of the material covered in the first ten minutes, and only 20 percent of the material covered in the last ten minutes.

One of the characteristics of a passive lecture situation in which a lecturer is using few devices to get students to think actively about the content of the lecture is that attention tends to drift. Probably all of us have had the experience of listening to a speaker and finding with a start that we have not heard the speaker for some time because our attention has drifted on to thoughts that are tangential to the lecturer's theme. Bloom's (1953) studies of students' thinking during lectures and discus­sion indicated that more of students' thoughts were relevant to the content during lectures than during discussions, but that there was less active thinking in lectures than in discussions.
What Can Be Done to Get Attention?

In determining how to allocate attention, students use various strategies. Any lecturer knows that one way of getting attention is to precede the statement by the phrase, "This will be on the test." In addition, students listen for particular words or phrases that indicate to them that something is worth noting and remember­ing. Statements that enumerate or list are likely to be on tests and thus are likely to be attended to.

Changes in the environment recruit attention. The ability of changes to capture attention can work to the advantage of the lec­turer. Variation in pitch, intensity, and pace of the lecture, and visual cues such as gestures, facial expression, movement to the blackboard, the use of demonstrations or audio-visual aids—all of these recruit and maintain attention to the lecture.

Auditory attention is directed to some extent by visual atten­tion. As the eyes move, auditory attention tends to shift as well. Distracting movements in the classroom are thus likely to cause students to fail to recall what the lecturer has said. On the posi­tive side, there is some evidence that students' comprehension is greater when the students can see the speaker's face and lips. Thus attempts of colleges and universities to conserve energy by reducing the lighting level may also reduce the students' abilities to maintain attention and learn from the lecture.

I indicated above that at most times when students are not highly motivated there is spare capacity of attention available. This spare capacity is very likely to be used for daydreaming or other tasks which may become more engrossing than listening to the lecture. Hence motivation is important in holding student attention. Keeping lectures to student interests, giving examples that are vivid and intriguing, building suspense toward a resolu­tion of a conflict—these are all techniques of gaining and holding attention.

All of these devices will help, but recall the Hartley and Davies finding that students' attention tends to wane after ten minutes. A more radical device for maintaining attention requires breaking up the lecture rather than trying to hold attention for an hour or more. Student activities such as the minute paper, pair­ing, or buzz groups can reactivate students' attention.

Anxiety is a motive with potential negative effects. There is a good deal of evidence that students who are high in anxiety about texts are likely to fail to pay attention to the test while they are taking it because they are distracted by thoughts of failure (Wine, 1971). It seems likely that such anxiety about achievement may also distract a student listening to a lecture. In fact some of the very cues used by the lecturer, such as "this will be on the test," may also cue anxious thoughts about the likelihood of failing the test, about the consequences of failing in college and the resulting disappointment of family. Thus, although heavy emphasis upon tests and grades may cause some students to increase the amount of attention devoted to the lecture, it may also negatively affect others to the degree that their thoughts turn to the consequences of success or failure.

^ Should Students Take Notes?

Note taking is one of the activities by which students attempt to stay attentive, but note taking is also an aid to memory. "Working memory," or "short term memory," is a term used to describe the fact that one can hold only a given amount of material in mind at one time- When the lecturer presents a succession of new con­cepts, students' faces begin to show signs of anguish and frustra­tion; some write furiously in their notebooks, while others stop in complete discouragement. Note taking thus is depen­dent upon one's ability, derived from past experience (long term memory), to understand what is being said and to hold it in working memory long enough to write it down. In most cases, when queried about their listening or note-taking habits, students report that they are primarily concerned about getting the gist of the lecture in order to be prepared for an examination. To do this they try to extract significant features from the lecture, to distill some of its meaning.

Hartley and Davies (1978) reviewed the research on note tak­ing and student information processing during lectures. They report that students believe that there are two purposes for taking notes': One is that the process of taking notes will in itself help later recall; the other is that the notes provide external storage of concepts which may be reviewed when needed. The research results indicate some support for both beliefs.

Several studies show that students who take notes remember material better than a control group not taking notes even though the note takers turned in their notes immediately after the lecture. Note taking involves elaboration and transformation of ideas, which increases meaningfulness and retention (Peper and Mayer, 1978; Weiland and Kingbury, 1979). But note taking has costs as well as benefits. Student strategies of note taking differ. Some stu­dents take copious notes; others take none. We know that student information processing capacity is limited; that is, people can take in, understand, and store only so much information in any brief period of time. Information will be processed more effectively if the student is actively engaged in analyzing and processing the information rather than passively soaking it up.

Students' ability to process information depends upon the degree to which the information can be integrated or "chunked." No one has great ability at handling large numbers of unrelated items in active memory. Thus when students are in an area of new concepts or when the instructor is using language that is not entirely familiar to the students, students may be processing the lecture word by word or phrase by phrase and lose the sense of a sentence or of a paragraph before the end of the thought is died. This means that lecturers need to be aware of instances in which new words or concepts are being introduced and to build in greater redundancy as well as pauses during which stu­dents can catch up and get appropriate notes.

Snow and Peterson (1980) point out that brighter students benefit more from taking notes than less able students. We believe that this is because the less able students cannot, while they write their notes, keep what they hear in their memories, so that their note taking essentially blocks them from processing parts of the lecture. But this is not simply a matter of intelligence; rather a student's ability to maintain materials in memory while taking notes and even to process and think about relationships between one idea and other ideas depends upon the knowledge or cognitive structures the student has available for organizing and relating the material. Thus the background of the student in the area is probably more important than the student's level of intelligence.

Some faculty members hand out prepared notes or encourage the preparation of notes for students to purchase. Hartley's research, as well as that of Annis (1981) and Kiewra (1989), sug­gests that a skeletal outline is helpful to students but with detailed notes students relax into passivity. It is better simply to provide an overall framework which they can fill in by selecting important points and interpreting them in their own words. Because student capacity for information processing is limited and because students cannot stop and go over again a confusing part of a lecture, you need to build more redundancy into your lectures than into writing, and you need to build in pauses where students can catch up and think rather than simply struggle to keep up.

^ How Do Students Process the Content of a Lecture?

Let us assume that students are allocating attention appropriate to the lecture. This alone, however, does not ensure that the con­tent of the lecture will be understood, remembered, and applied appropriately. Even though students are trying to meet the demands of the situation, they may differ in the ways they go about processing the words that they have heard. Marton and Saljo (1976a,b) and other researchers at the University of Goteborg have used Craik and ixKkarfs (1972) differentiation of surface versus deep processing to describe differences in the way students go about trying to learn educational materials. Some stu­dents process the material as little as possible, simply trying to remember the words the instructor says and doing little beyond this. This would be described by Marton as "surface processing." Other students try to see implications of what the lecturer is say­ing, try to relate what is currently bring said to other information either in the lecture or in their own experience and reading. They elaborate and translate the instructor's words into their own. They may question. This more thoughtful and more active kind of listening is what Marton and Saljo refer to as "deep process­ing." Experienced students can probably vary their strategies from verbatim memory to memory of concepts, depending upon the demands of the situation. Obviously there are times when exact recall of what the lecturer said is important, but, in general, "deep processing" is more likely to yield long term memory and retrieval of the kind of knowledge needed for solving problems.

Strategies of surface processing or deep processing are proba­bly not fixed, and lecturers may be able to help their students process more material at a deep level, and, in addition, help stu­dents to learn from lectures more effectively. Pointing out rela­tionships, asking rhetorical questions, or asking questions to be answered by class members are ways of encouraging active thought. Teachers can also ask for examples of how students apply concepts to their own experiences, thus encouraging all stu­dents to realize that it is important to try to think about how con­cepts relate to oneself. One can train students to write better notes by collecting student notes, evaluating the degree to which they summarize, translate, and show relationships as opposed to sim­ply representing more or less verbatim accounts.

^ Planning the Lecture Series

A typical lecture strives to present a systematic, concise summary of the knowledge to be covered in the day's assignment. Chang, Crombag, van der Drift, and Moonen (1983, p. 21) call this approach "conclusion oriented." Don't do it! The lecturer's task in university teaching is not to be an abstractor of encyclopedias, but to teach students to learn and think.

I was a conclusion oriented lecturer for thirty years and I am now trying to move toward a style of lecturing that provides a model of cognitive activity rather than cognitive results. I believe that most of our lectures should involve analyzing materials, for­mulating problems, developing hypotheses, bringing evidence to bear, criticizing and evaluating alternative solutions—revealing methods of learning and thinking.

One of the implications of the theoretical approach we have taken is that what is an ideal approach to lecturing early in a course is likely to be inappropriate later in the course. As we noted earlier, the way students process verbal material depends on the structures that not only enable them to process bigger and bigger chunks of subject matter but also give them tacit knowl­edge of the methods, procedures, and conventions used in the field and by you as a lecturer. For, intentionally or not, you are teaching students how to become more skilled in learning from your lectures.

Because this is so, one should at the outset of a course go more slowly, pause to allow students with poor short term mem­ory to take notes, and give more "everyday" types of examples early in the term. Pausing to write a phrase or sketch a relation­ship on the blackboard will not only give students a chance to catch up but also provides visual cues that can serve as points of reference later. Later in the term students should be able to process bigger blocks of material more quickly.
Preparing Your Lecture Notes

One of the security-inducing features of lectures is that one car prepare a lecture with some sense of control over the content and organization of the class period. In lectures the instructor is usu­ally in control, and this sense of controlled structure helps the anxious teacher avoid pure panic.

But no matter how thoroughly one has prepared the subject matter of the lecture, one must still face the problem of how to retrieve and deliver one's insights during the class period- If one has plenty of time and is compulsive, one is tempted to write out the lecture verbatim. Don't! Or if you must (and writing it out may be useful in clarifying your thoughts), don't take a verbatim version into the classroom. Few lecturers can read a lecture so well that students stay awake and interested.

At the same time few teachers can deliver a lecture with no cues at all. Hence you will ordinarily lecture from notes. Most lec­turers use an outline or a sequence of cue words and phrases.

Day (1980) has studied lecture notes used by professors at over seventy-five colleges and universities. She notes that exten­sive notes take the instructor out of eye contact with students so that students fall into a passive, nonquestioning role. Day sug­gests the use of graphic representations to increase teaching flexi­bility and spontaneity. Tree diagrams, computer flow charts, or network models enable a teacher to have at hand a representation of the structure that permits one to answer questions without los­ing track of the relationship of the question to the lecture organi­zation. Pictorial representations using arrows, faces, Venn diagrams, or drawings that symbolize important concepts may not only provide cues for the instructor but can also be placed on the blackboard to provide additional cues for students, Color cod­ing your notes with procedural directions to yourself also helps. I have a tendency to run overtime, so I put time cues in the margin to remind me to check. I also put indirections to myself such as,

"Put on blackboard."—(usually a key concept or relation­ship)

"Ask students for a show of hands."

"Put students in pairs to discuss this."

You may not feel at home with all of these possibilities, but some experience with hybrids of graphic and verbal cues will probably facilitate your effectiveness as a lecturer. Whatever your system, indicate signposts to tell students what is ahead, transitions that tell students when you are finishing one topic and moving to the next, key points or concepts, and links such as "consequently," "therefore," and "because."

^ Organization of Lectures

In thinking about lecture organization, most teachers think first about the structure of the subject matter, then try to organize the content in some logical fashion, such as building from specifics to generalization or deriving specific implication from general prin­ciples. Too often we get so immersed in "covering" the subject that we forget to ask, "What do I really want students to remem­ber from this lecture next week, next year?"

Some common organizing principles used by lecturers are: cause to effect; time sequence (for example, stories); parallel orga­nization such as phenomenon to theory to evidence; problem to solution; pro versus con to resolution; familiar to unfamiliar; and concept to application.

Leith (1977) has suggested that different subjects are basically different in the ways in which progress is made in the field. Some subjects are organized in a linear or hierarchical fashion in which one concept builds upon a preceding one. In such subjects one must follow a particular sequence of ideas in order to reach a sophisticated level. Other subjects are organized more nearly in the manner of a spiral or helix in which the path from one level to the next is not linear but rather depends upon accumulating a number of related ideas before the next level can be achieved; and any of the related ideas at one level need not precede other ideas at that level. Still other subjects are organized in the fashion of networks in which one may start at different points of the net­work and go in various directions. One may build up a network equally well by starting at any one of a number of places and pro­ceeding through a variety of sequences to arrive at comprehen­sion of the subject matter.

The logical structure of one's subject should be one factor determining the lecture organization, but equally important is the cognitive structure in the students' minds. If we are to teach our students effectively, we need to bridge the gap between the struc­ture in the subject matter and structures in die students' minds. As is indicated in all of the chapters in this book, the learner's mind is not tabula rasa. The teacher is not making impressions on a blank slate. Rather our task in teaching is to reorganize existing student cognitive structures or to add new dimensions or new features to existing structures. Thus the organization of the lec­ture needs to take account of the student's existing knowledge and expectations as well as the structure of the subject matter.

The Introduction

One suggestion for organization is that the introduction of the lec­ture should point to a gap in the student's existing cognitive structure or should challenge or raise a question about something in the student's existing method of organizing material in order to arouse curiosity (Berlyne, 1954a,b). There is a good deal of research on the role of prequestions in directing attention to fea­tures of written texts. Prequestions in the introduction of a lecture may help students to discriminate between more and less impor­tant features of lectures. For example, before a lecture on cogni­tive changes in aging, I ask, "Do you get more or less intelligent as you get older?"; "What is a fair test of intelligence for older people?" Such questions may also help to create expectations which will enable the students to allocate their information pro­cessing capacity more effectively. If students know what they are expected to learn from a lecture, they learn more of that material (sometimes at the expense of other material; Royer, 1977).

Alternatively you may motivate students by beginning with an example, case, or application that indicates the practical rele­vance of the topic.


Body of the Lecture

In organizing the body of the lecture, the most common error is probably that of trying to include too much. As we have stressed throughout this chapter, students' information processing capaci­ties are limited, and a lecturer who is expert in the field is likely to overestimate the students' ability to grasp large blocks of material and to see relationships. An explanation that would be perfect for advanced students may be incomprehensible to beginning stu­dents. Lecturers very often overload the students' information processing capacity so that they become less able to understand the material than if fewer points had been presented. David Katz (1950), a pioneer Gestalt psychologist, called this phenomenon "mental dazzle." He suggested that just as too much light causes our eyes to be dazzled so that we cannot see anything, so too can too many new ideas overload processing capacity so that we can­not understand anything. If the lecture involves a number of abstract concepts, begin to develop them with concrete examples.

It seems likely that students will differ in their ability to bene­fit from particular kinds of sequences. As Greeno and his col­leagues have shown (Larkin, Heller, and Greeno, 1980), some students do better when they are given a sequence of generaliza­tions first and specific drill and practice sequences second, while other students do better when the specifics lead to generaliza­tions.

Use the blackboard or an overhead projector to give the stu­dents cues to the organization of the lecture. Placing a skeletal outline (or sequence of questions) on the blackboard before the lecture may help; going to the blackboard to construct an outline, fill in the skeleton, or simply to write key words is useful in three ways.

  1. H gives a visual representation to supplement your oral pre­sentation.

  2. Movement (change) helps retain (or regain) attention.

  3. It gives students a chance to catch up with what you've said
    (perchance to think!).

Whatever the structure one uses, it is clear from research that highlighting the structure and giving students cues to the nature of organization that one is using is helpful to many students, par­ticularly those who are lower in intelligence or more anxious (Snow and Peterson, 1980). Davis's studies of outstanding lec­tures (1976) indicated that professors known as outstanding lec­turers did two things; they used a simple plan and many examples.

Periodic Summaries Within the Lecture

From our knowledge of students' note-taking behavior and from our theory of information processing, it seems likely that students would be better able to learn from lectures if there were periodic summaries of preceding material. These give students a chance to catch up on material covered when they were not tuned in and also give them a check upon possible misperception based upon inadequate or misleading expectations. Moreover, such sum­maries can help make clear to students transitions from one-theme to another so that they are aided in organizing the material not only in their notes but in their minds.

Probably one of the greatest barriers to effective lecturing is the feeling that one must cover the material at all costs. Although it may seem irrational to cover material when students are not learning from it, one should not underestimate the compulsion one feels to get through one's lecture notes. A remedy for this compulsion is to put into the lecture notes reminders to oneself to check the students' understanding—both by looking for nonver­bal cues of bewilderment or of lack of attention and by raising specific questions that will test the students' understanding.

The Conclusion

In the conclusion of the lecture, one has the opportunity to make up for lapses in the body of the lecture. Encouraging students to formulate questions or asking questions oneself can facilitate understanding and memory. By making the oral headings visible once again, by recapitulating major points, by proposing unan­swered questions to be treated in the reading assignments or the future lectures, and by creating an anticipation of the future, the lecturer can help students learn. One good (and humbling) tech­nique is to announce that you will ask a student to summarize the lecture at the end of the period. Another—less threatening—is to have students spend three minutes writing a summary of main points. Either method helps the process of elaboration that is criti­cal for memory. Having suggested all this, I must admit that my own greatest problem as a lecturer is that I never seem to be ready for the conclusion until it is already past time to dismiss the class.

How to Get Students Actively Thinking in a Lecture Situation

As we have seen, a major problem with the lecture is that stu­dents assume a passive, non-thinking, information receiving role. Yet, if they are to remember and use the information, they need to he actively engaged in thinking about the content presented. One easy and effective device is the "minute paper." The minute paper is, as its title indicates, a paper literally written in a. minute (or it can be a two-minute or three-minute paper). Announce at the beginning of the class period that you will interrupt your lec­ture midway through the period so that the students may write one-minute paper on a topic derived from the lecture.

In addition to the large group discussion and subgrouping techniques discussed in Chapters 4 and 13, you can liven up your classes with classroom debates either between faculty members or between student teams.

If you use student debaters, you will need to provide a clear structure, probably through a handout describing the problem, the length of talks, opportunity for rebuttal, and purpose of the debate as a learning device. How are the debaters chosen? One option is to divide the class into six- to eight-person teams who prepare their arguments and evidence and choose one or more representatives to participate in the debate. Another technique is to form smaller teams to prepare together to present either side and to choose the debaters for each side randomly, (I like to allow time for coaching by the team before the rebuttal.)

Whatever the method, you ordinarily will want to end with a discussion of the complexity of the issue, the fact that there are pros and cons for each position, and perhaps that a resolution may be found other than a decision for one position and against the other.
Lecture and Discussion

Lecture has often been compared in effectiveness with discussion. Since discussion offers the opportunity for a good deal of student activity and feedback, it could, according to theory, be more effec­tive than lecture in developing concepts and problem-solving skills. However, because the rate of transmission of information is slow in discussion classes, I would expect lecture classes to be superior in attaining the objective of teaching knowledge.

What this adds up to is the use of lecture for communicating information and modeling problem solving and discussion for practicing problem-solving skills. One way of doing this is to schedule separate lecture and discussion periods. Another is to incorporate both discussion and lecture in the same class period.

^ Distribution of Lecture and Discussion Time

Many universities and large colleges use. a method of distributing class meetings between lectures and discussions. This administra­tive arrangement is supported by a study in the teaching of psy­chology in which discussion meetings were substituted for one-third of the lectures (Lifson et al., 1956). There were no signif­icant differences in achievement. However, the partial discussion method, as compared with the all lecture method, resulted in more favorable student attitudes that persisted in a follow-up study two years later.

Warren (1954) compared the effectiveness of one lecture and four recitations to two lectures and three demonstrations per week. In one out of five comparisons the four-recitations plan was superior while the other comparisons found nonsignificant differences. Superior students tended to prefer the two-lecture plan while poorer students did not. On the other hand, in Remmers's comparison (1933) of two lectures and one recitation vs. three recitations, the poorer students tended to do better in the lecture-recitation combination. Students preferred the all-recita­tion classes. In Klapper's study (1958), most NYL" students pre­ferred a combination lecture-discussion method to all lectures or all discussions. Iowa students preferred all group discussion or a combination of lecture and discussion to lectures alone (Becker et al., 1958).

In a course in which the instructors must not only give infor­mation but also develop concepts, the use of both lectures and discussions would thus seem to be a logical and popular choice.

Sometimes you will be unable to schedule separate small group discussions. Do not despair. Discussion is possible in large groups. As we shall see in Chapter 21 there are many practical methods for achieving the advantages of discussion in large groups.

^ The Lecturer: A Summary

What is the role of the lecturer in higher education? The lecture is sometimes an effective way of communicating information, par­ticularly in classes where variations in student background, ability, or interest make feedback to the lecturer important. We have also shown that the organization and presentation of lectures may influence their effectiveness in achieving application of knowl­edge or in influencing attitudes. Discussion, however, may be more effective than lecturing in achieving some of the higher level cognitive and attitudinal objectives.

Good lecturers probably do intuitively many of the things we have suggested. Becoming conscious of what is going on in the students' heads as we talk, being alert to feedback from students through their facial expressions, nonverbal behavior, or oral com­ments, adjusting one's strategies in reference to these cues—these will help the lecturer learn and help students to learn from the lecturer more effectively.


A very practical guide for lecturers is George Brown's handy paperback, Lecturing and Explaining (London: Methuen, 1980).


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