Lullaby Lectures

“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while others sleep” – Albert Camus

In his book ‘One Size Does Not Fit All’, author Nikhil Goyal talks about how the lecturing format originated in the 14th century, prior to the printing press. He is dumbfounded that six hundred years later, even after the advent of the internet, we still use such an ineffectual method as a staple tool in our education system. Don’t believe me when I say lecturing doesnt work? The research is there to back me up.

Eric Mazur, professor of physics at Harvard University, confessed, “Its alot more fun being on stage delivering a lecture than it is sitting in the audience watching it.”
As a current college student and recovering victim of Ireland’s secondary school system, I can certainly attest to that. Even in our most entertaining lecturers’ classes, I tend to zone in and out. Its not that I’m not eager to learn, in fact its the opposite – I don’t want to waste an hour and a half of my time paying full attention to a lecture which may not be on the most relevant topic to me. Not just that, but the nature of how our brains learn makes it impossible for me to retain much of what’s said. So I spend the time typing articles and stories, or researching, during lectures; occasionally tuning in to ask a question.

So what are the alternatives? Sugata Mitra gave an enlightening Ted Talk presenting his work with children from slums in New Delhi, which demonstrates the astonishing efficacy of peer to peer learning. Successful learning is intrinsically social, it involves minds engaging one another – rather than one ‘superior’ teacher brain feeding information into thirty ‘ignorant’ student brains. There should be a flow of communication(and collaboration – action based learning is vital) between thirty one brains with the teacher acting as facilitator, not pedagogue. Mazur also employs peer to peer learning as discussed in thisĀ riveting article on lecturing versus peer to peer learning.

One thing that has been widely touted but certainly is not the solution is ‘Khan Academy’, an online video resouce which is simply rote learning and lecturing brought to the internet and made accessible at any time. All that does is improve a broken method. Like trying to execute someone with a water pistol instead of a banana: unless you’ve taken classes on how to defend yourself against fresh fruit, neither method is likely to be all that effective.

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