Friday, October 14, 2011

Lecture, Smecture?

We're constantly being told that we shouldn't lecture. When pressed, the speaker (often an administrator) will back off and say that of course we should lecture sometimes, but that we need to mix it up, that it can't be the sole form of pedagogy. Well, duh. Is there anyone out there who, in K12, does nothing but lecture?

Some subjects lend themselves more to "direct instruction" than others, and lecture is an efficient form of direct instruction. The theory is that I know more about math than the students in my classes, and hence I should impart my knowledge to them. Why should they figure it out for themselves, when I can teach it to them much more quickly--and hence they can learn more in the same amount of time?

So this week in one class I tried some different approaches. Yesterday after school I came to a conclusion: I was a flop. The students were confused, they didn't understand the material, and there's no way I could give them a quiz today on this week's material--it just wouldn't be fair.

So I canceled today's quiz and I taught. No "discovery learning", no "guide on the side", no ivory tower pedagogy, just me sharing my knowledge with my pre-calculus students. And guess what. They finally got it. All week they struggled, but today it all made sense. In 50 minutes. What they couldn't understand in the previous 200 minutes.

Some would say that I just didn't do the other stuff correctly. But I know better. Some topics, and some subjects, are better presented in a "direct instruction" format. I explain the material, walk students through it, then guide them through it, then they do it on their own. It just makes sense.


Pomoprophet said...

"Some topics, and some subjects, are better presented in a "direct instruction" format"

Some? What subjects aren't better suited for lecture? Maybe a science lab or something thats open to interpretation like art or literature. But education has always been about those who know imparting wisdom on those who don't.

socalmike said...

Direct instruction using student interaction and a white board will beat "death by PowerPoint" every time.
I hate PowerPoints.

Daniel Kam said...

Some students, however, really need to do the Problems to learn the material with teacher guidance. On the other hand, some students don't even need the lecture because they just learn it from the book. I find small group instruction that targets direct instruction for the students who really need it to be most effective.

Ellen K said...

If you've read my recent rant about BYOT, you may get the drift of this post. I am sure at some level administration supports this teacher in spirit, but on a teaching level, this stinks. One of my students has repeatedly complained to me about her PreCal class. This is a good student who carries a high GPA. She is diligent almost to a fault. It seems her teacher has recorded two 45 minute lectures which students are supposed to watch every single night. In class, they work on homework, but because the lecture is online, it is somewhat protected by the auspices of BYOT. So students don't get to participate by doing things such as asking questions during demonstration and are required to take notes on the 90 minutes of internet lecture that they must listen to every night. While I am sure some administrator will hail this as a breakthrough, as a method of education it seems cold, distant and dismissive. Of course, it appears that some in administration want BYOT to lead teachers to become mere facilitators-the assumption being that kids can teach themselves.

ChrisA said...


You are my HERO! Both hands clapping.

Left Coast Ref said...

Ellen, I would love to read your blog/rant about BYOT. Can you help me find it? Thanks.

mrelliott said...

When I recently went through faculty orientation, two professors talked to us about teaching techniques that work. One was an educational psychologist, and the other was a math professor. Both stated that most of the techniques that are in the schools these days are "trendy" junk that don't do anything to help kids learn.

3rseduc / handsinthesoil said...

I feel direct instruction has its place. How can you learn to build a Nitdne (a 'made up" object) and a teacher said, here's some supplies, get cracking, your Nitdne is due tomorrow! You would have no clue what the heck a Nitdne is. This is where direct instruction comes into place, the teacher explains a Nitdne (house, airplane, box, whatever) and how to build one. Then and only then can nitdne be built .