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Lecture is Widely Questioned; Next: the Test.

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013

January 2nd, 2012

Hi, all -- in the article below, about how ineffectual lecture is for teaching physics, we see even more evidence against lecture as the default method of teaching. I have been reading these kinds of articles for a decade or more and have written some articles in the same vein myself. In terms of the blogosphere, we could conclude that the lecture has been discredited.

In practice, of course, the lecture continues as the most common teaching practice. It is not clear to most faculty members, yet, how to change their practice. Is there a general move away from lecture? Are "high impact practices" gaining advocates (that is, social learning, active learning, community-based learning, service learning, internships, undergraduate research and so on)?

Is there a move away from lecture points toward key questions?

While we wait for data about changes in practice, we should be actively challenging the other crucial part of the "tell and test" pedagogy, the test. It is one thing to turn the tide about belief in lecture, but it is another to turn the tide about not only teaching but about assessment and evaluation. Lecture leads naturally to testing: the one-size-fits-all approach to education needs both the lecture and the test.

Lecture, we now can see, most often leads to superficial understanding, and therefore we must have a superficial assessment instrument appropriate for superficial understanding -- the test.

Many approaches to deep learning -- high impact practices -- are effective. Most, or perhaps all, of these approaches, can become deeper and more effective with the use of electronic portfolios. However, not only can the teaching/learning part of the process be better with eportfolios, but also the assessment and evaluation part. After all, the saying "you teach as you test" is actually true. Moving away from the lecture has some effect in terms of learning, but if testing remains intact, efforts to improve learning will result in minimal improvement.

And, if seat time/credits remain the business model, moving away from the lecture is trivial in terms of impact. Education needs to examine the entire process in place now and consider how electronic portfolios can support an entirely new educational business model and education system. Defeating the supremacy of the lecture is a mere pyrrhic victory; it is only the first move in a major redesign of institutional education.

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