What Does the Research Say about Lectures?
It is well-established in the lore of online instructors and those who support them that lecture-centered teaching is not as effective as almost any other kind. Who wants to share the road with young drivers who only ever heard about how to steer but never got to try it yet? Who wants to be the first patient of a surgeon who got a solid B on all the quizzes but has not yet seen blood? Proper learning must include lots of opportunity for students to put their hands (and minds) to work. People learn by doing not listening. Humans can only pay attention to lectures for 10 minutes before losing attention, less online. (What is the longest cat video you ever watched? And cat videos are intrinsically awesome.)
It makes intuitive sense. But this is a university; we do evidence, not intuition. (And use semi-colons is obscure but technically acceptable ways.) As I was reminded recently by a colleague during a consultation, it’s not enough to be correct in academia. One must also share one’s bibliography.
So what is the evidence for the lecture lore?
The list below is intended to begin to answer that question by listing a few of the broadest, clearest, most influential, and most evidentiary write-ups on the subject. Thus, I will also include a request: if you have a bibliography you like to use — or even just a compelling research publication or persuasive presentation not included here — please add it in the comments below.
- Eric Mazur, “Confessions of a Converted Lecturer,” University of Maryland, Baltimore County, uploaded 12 November 2009
- Donald A. Bligh, What’s the Use of Lectures? (San Francisco: JosseyBass, 2000). Chapters 1 and 3 online: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic38998.files/Bligh_Ch1_and_Ch3.pdf
- K. Wilson and J. H. Korn, “Attention during lectures: Beyond ten minutes,” Teaching of Psychology 34.2 (2007): 85– 89, http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00986280701291291
- Tony Bates, “Why Lectures are Dead (or Soon Will Be),” 27 July 2014, https://www.tonybates.ca/2014/07/27/why-lectures-are-dead-or-soon-will-be/
- Freeman, et al, summarized by Aleszu Bajak, “Lectures aren’t just boring, they’re Ineffective, too, study finds,” Science (12 May 2014) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/05/lectures-arent-just-boring-theyre-ineffective-too-study-finds
- Christine Gross-Loh, “Should Colleges Really Eliminate the College Lecture?” The Atlantic (14 July 2016) https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/07/eliminating-the-lecture/491135/