Sunday, November 1, 2015

Why lectures won't be making a comeback any time soon

Responding to my previous post on the benefits of lectures, momof4 astutely writes:

much of the benefit requires students to be well-prepared; having done required readings and reviewed previous lecture notes (as needed for clarification and greater understanding) and to be diligent in attendance - and I'm given to understand that this is no longer common. It's also necessary to be able to take good, comprehensive notes - yes, by hand - and I think many kids lack the at-least-semi-cursive speed necessary (print tends to be too slow) and/or the ability to outline well - and both speed and organization are essential. I remember having at least 12-15 pages of outline notes (pretty small writing) for each 3-hr history class and almost that for sciences (or more if lots of diagrams).

I think it's likely that kids are not taught outlining any more and I guess teaching cursive has disappeared. My 5th-grade teacher taught us to outline, first with written material, then with short lectures. Notes were turned in, corrected and graded. This continued, with increasing frequency and complexity, through 8th grade. In HS, we were expected to be able to take appropriate notes on our own. This was especially true for college prep classes, but US history was all juniors together and passing meant taking decent notes. I think we're at the point where kids expect study guides, reviews etc - not just in HS but in college, to the point of not being able to do without such aids. The real world doesn't work that way.
What a thoughtful, interesting comment, highlighting a bunch of circumstances that must converge for lectures to be beneficial. It's interesting how several of these circumstances are totally at odds with current trends in education:

1. Penmanship skills. Today's penmanship instruction frequently stops at the how-tos of letter formation. While some children get further their own, few get explicit instruction in fast, fluent, legible handwriting techniques (for example, cursive).

2. Outlining skills. It's interesting to learn that these were once taught and graded. I was in K12 in the 70's and 80's and never experienced this. My note-taking skills are not what they could be.

3. The expectation that students are well-prepared in terms of having internalized previous content--an expectation that, in the age of Google, is increasingly obsolete.

Then there's:

4. The expectation that students listen at length to their teachers (as opposed to, say, doing most of the talking themselves).

So to convince K12 teachers to go back to lecture-style teaching, you'd also have to persuade them to teach penmanship and outlining, and to hold students more accountable for content and listening. But as Internet "research" gets easier and easier, as classroom-based keyboards increasingly displace pen and paper, as note-taking software usurps more and more of the note taking process, and as teacher and technology-generated study guides (from Power Points to Prezi) become ever more commonplace, I'm guessing this is unlikely to happen any time in the near or distant future.


Auntie Ann said...

Last year our 7th grader complained about having to take notes in class and turn them in, and even more that the teacher was insisting on the Cornell note system.

I was happy about it and told him it was good to learn a systematic way of taking notes, from which he could then go on to develop his own method.

The teacher also required that everything be turned in in cursive, so there are still teachers out there doing this.

momof4 said...

That's wonderful! I don't remember if the way I was taught to outline had a name - what the the Cornell? I was taught the Palmer method for cursive, but Calvert cursive (can find examples on google) is stylish, easier to do and equally fast. It's sort of a combination of print and traditional cursive; letters are more like print but they are linked, so it's faster. BTW, the Calvert School (Baltimore) has sent their packaged curriculum overseas, for missionary families, for over 100 years; I guess that makes them the first "official" homeschoolers.

Unknown said...

Also, the previous post and comments recognize that the lecture format requires students to be able to "organize and synthesize material as it comes in" (while taking notes). The unpalatable reality is that the ability to do such cognitive processing, particularly at lecture speed, is heavily associated with overall cognitive ability (g, IQ). The edworld's refusal to admit any relationship between academics and cognitive ability amounts to ignoring the neon-pink elephant in the room. Lgm's post on her school's abandonment of teaching/assigning outlining illustrates the constraints placed on schools by fully-included classrooms, even though full-inclusion denies capable students challenges appropriate to their ability and future plans. Now, the problems have been passed along to college. Sigh