Love lectures?

A recent New York Times opinion piece goes slightly against the learning and teaching orthodoxy but arguing in FAVOUR of lectures – http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/opinion/sunday/lecture-me-really.html. It looks at some of the advantages of a lecture format, particularly in the humanities, including teaching students how to listen critically, take notes that summarise ideas and arguments, and learn to understand before commenting/opining.

In law, there is some information that is best communicated through lecture elements, but my classes run in a more “Socratic” or questioning style (having been partially trained in the US), with problem-solving, group discussions and class debate. So I don’t do a lot of pure “lecture” although there is some content that I do present in this way.

But it got me thinking. I would probably be frustrated if I wanted to learn something in an area with which I wasn’t familiar (say at a conference or seminar) and the speaker adopted an “active learning” approach. Sometimes all you want to do is hear someone knowledgeable about something deliver an engaging, interesting and informative “lecture”. And when listening to such, I am rarely “passive” but usually constantly questioning them (initially in my head and eventually by raising my hand in question time). Of course, one difference is that I already know how to “do” legal reasoning, so that is not what I am learning. But the same could be said of later year students too.

So, my question is this: When are lectures the best way to teach?

 

Lyria Bennett Moses

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