If you are an educated person above the age of thirty, chances are you had a traditional educational experience. Most of the time instruction was delivered with someone standing up front and talking to you and you following along at your desk. Though this style of teaching has worked in the past, there has been a recent shift in its perception.
It would appear that much of the education community is now opting to move towards a more engaging style of learning. Project-based learning and other hands-on styles of teaching are all the rage in schools right now. Leaving those who still opt to use traditional lecture style formats to defend themselves against the changing tide of educational wisdom.
I am one of those old school lecture teachers, and I will defend it to the death…or at least to the unemployment line.
- Lots of different teaching styles are a good thing.
Just as it’s okay that some teachers want to use project-based or hands-on learning to teach their class, it’s also okay that some teachers want to lecture. Obviously different classes and ages lend themselves to different styles. Math and science classes are shifting to more hands-on activities and that makes sense given the needs of those subjects, but my history class works just fine in a lecture style. Actually, given the pure amount of content I have to teach, it may be the only format the works for me personally.
- Some studies suggest the difference between the new and old styles are marginal in some settings.
Many of the arguments I hear about teaching styles tend to start with the presupposition that the newer wave of strategies is significantly more effective but according to many studies, lectures and direct instruction are just as if not more effective than project-based instruction. It’s nice to have new ways to learn; but if they aren’t more effective, what is the point in making everyone switch?
- Lectures prepare students for life and college.
Regardless of how high school and middle school students feel about lectures, they better get used to them because that is what they are going to experience in college. Professors stand in front of the room and talk. Students who don’t get at-bats with that style of teaching will be unprepared. Additionally, when’s the last time you’ve been to a business meeting where the information was delivered through a fun engaging activity? Students need to learn how to retain information via auditory and visual stimuli.
- Lectures can be fun and engaging.
Part of the problem with this debate is that it is usually framed as a battle of a boring old guy standing in front of an overhead in a monotone voice and a young funny science teacher leading the class in creating a volcano, but lectures can be fun. They can be engaging. My lectures include tons of turn and talks, fun examples, and opportunities for participation. Most students find my class to be engaging. This can be true of any lecture.
Conversely, I have seen many disorganized scattered projects and activities where the teacher struggles to control the lesson, struggles to get across the key takeaways from the activity, and has no idea if the students actually mastered the standard they were supposed to be teaching. That’s not to say that is the way all of these types of lessons go. But if we are going to judge lectures by the worst examples we can find, then we have to do the same for the newer styles too.
It is clear that many people desire to shake up the classrooms and try something new which is fine; however, newer isn’t always better. As much as we have learned since the early days of education, it’s important to remember that some of the things we were doing before still work.