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/ log / 16th Jul, 2011

The future of lectures

  1. Sat, 16th Jul 2011
  2. 2 Comments
  3. Lecture
  4. Instruction
  5. Future
  6. Nobel laureate

Yesterday was the annual workshop of our research project Intelligentes Lernen. All team members were presenting the results of the last year’s work. Several representatives of involved companies were participating. After my presentation (about the automated generation of problems in an educational multiplayer game) I got several questions concerning the application of games for teaching. One was a rather ‘heretical’ question and it was not asked by university staff. I was asked if I thought that lectures might disappear in the near future. And the question was complemented with some remarks that lectures are actually a relict from the Middle Age.

In my opinion they are a relict and should disappear. At least in the form they are applied nowadays: As a 1,5-hour, one-way show, usually accompanied by a seminar where the corresponding calculations are conveyed and/or practised. But where both events are often not adapted to each other. It is just another means of separating theory from practice, taking away the last bit of context that is left.

In the Science magazine Nobel laureate Carl Wieman and colleagues published the results of a comparison of two different instructional approaches in an undergraduate physics class. On the one hand an experienced and highly rated teacher, on the other hand a group taught by an inexperienced instructor using the tool set based on research in cognitive psychology and physics education: The group taught by the inexperienced instructor showed more than twice the learning of the other group.

I think lectures will remain for quite a long time. They have endured a long time from Middle Age till now. So some research and the corresponding results from the last decades will not change this in a couple of years. University personnel is usually not trained in didactics, neither it is expected from them. So how should they know? Nevertheless I think there has come up a balmy wind of change in the last years. The appearance of new competing nations in the last one or two decades has startled the western nations from their comfortable place of domination. It has awoken the question of how to keep and improve the advance of intellectual resources.

What do you think about the future of lectures?

 

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2 Comments

  1. 1 by Heinrich on 29th Jul 2011 at 12:53

    One counter argument - preserving lectures - was that a lecture is a show, a presentation of a professor how to deal with the knowledge of his domain. This might be true, but unfortunately not for all of the professors.

    I think lectures will change at least their appearance because of changed restrictions: In earlier times there were almost no books students could learn with .... nowadays almost every student logs the lecture into his own notebook ... which is not sensible for me because I cannot catch on to the lectures’ content and layout my notes at the same time.

    Although there are strong preserving forces (e.g. the infrastructure by the means of large lectures halls and no real need for a reorganization of education because of a lack of unambiguous and acknowledged measurements of educational success) I think the form of education will change in small steps.

  2. 2 by Thomas Bröker on 1st Aug 2011 at 10:43

    But if it is just for the ‘show’, why does it have to last one and a half ours in a (usually) weekly interval? On conferences where a lot of researchers come together and give a show of their research, people have something like 20-30 minutes to do this. Even the keynote speakers usually don’t have more time than 45-60 minutes.

    A show can be an ‘appetizer’ but the achievement of new skills and knowledge comes from participation. But as you say the change will come in small steps.

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