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Please Lecture Me

posted Apr 8, 2017, 11:02 AM by Emily Tai   [ updated May 2, 2017, 5:28 PM by CUNY UFS ]
By Emily Tai


Among the many advantages of online education have been the arguments that it substitutes customized, individual learning for the old-fashioned college lecture—the apparent dinosaur of college and university teaching.

Some educational research has argued that College lectures are unfair. The structure and delivery of a lecture is less effective, it is asserted, than active-learning strategies—especially for minority, female and first-generation college students. A 2010 study conducted at Columbia Teachers College nevertheless showed that first-generation college students with less preparation didn’t necessarily do any better in online courses—and that students who were already doing poorly might even fall still further behind in an online class.

Defending the College Lecture


Notwithstanding its shortcomings, several academics have advocated for the continuing value of the college lecture. Alex Small, a Physicist at the University of Pomona, has argued that an effective lecture/discussion session models expert problem-solving. Miya Tokumitsu, an art historian at the University of Melbourne, recently argued that lectures teach students how to listen in public settings, reaffirming civic engagement skills. A good lecture moreover requires skills in public-speaking—skills some academics might lack, but that many also hone, and model, for students in a lecture-oriented classroom.

Lecture And Discussion?


Is there some way to leverage the best qualities of the lecture while incorporating the benefits of customized instruction? A number of teaching and learning sites make various suggestions: make the topics and objectives of lectures transparent to the struggling first generation college student; punctuate a lecture with questions; vary instructional routines to make lectures more “dynamic.” But could on-line technology help students get the most out of a traditional college lecture? As the UFS Blog inaugurates an occasional series on online education, we welcome posts on resources and approaches that might help our students reap the benefits of the latest educational technology—without forfeiting the value of exposure to more traditional forms of pedagogy.

#SavetheLecture; #FirstGenerationStudents #OnlineEducation

Emily S. Tai is a professor of History at Queensborough Community College who serves on the UFS Executive Committee, and edits the UFS Blog.

The UFS Blog is a forum for CUNY Faculty, and welcomes the expression of all points of view.

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Image credit: A lecturer, after G.M. Woodward (1809), CC BY 4.0, via Wellcome Trust/Wikimedia Commons