Lectures are a common teaching strategy in universities. However, to reduce the risk of encouraging students to adopt a reproduction approach to their learning we need to move beyond a merely transmission model of teaching. To encourage higher levels of thinking and reasoning lectures need to be designed to encourage students to utilise and build on their existing understanding and transform what they hear into their own ways of knowing and thinking. This site offers strategies to do so.


Why Lecture?

Many staff feel that they must continue to lecture because it is traditionally expected. But tradition alone is not enough justification for continuing with lectures in these times of heavy workloads and increasing pressures on students. Before deciding whether or not to lecture it is important to consider whether there are better ways of providing information to students. For example, through taped lectures or the provision of on-line materials. If a lecture is not educationally worthwhile to students then for academics the time spent designing the lecture could be more profitably spent working in more interactive and problem based activities with students. For students the time could be spent more profitably in independent self-paced study of material.

Traditional lectures, if well planned and presented, can be effective for conveying information. However, there is little point in simply conveying information, however well it is presented, without stimulating students' motivation to learn and giving them opportunities to develop understanding. Methods which actively involve students are more effective than lectures for encouraging students to develop understanding, encouraging critical thought, challenging opinions or changing conceptions.

This does not mean that all lectures should be abolished. Many teachers enjoy lecturing, and many students enjoy good lectures.  Lectures can be used to give broad contextual information, to highlight the important or interesting aspects of a topic, to demonstrate problem solving techniques, or to show the relative strengths of two sides of an academic controversy. They should not, however, be used to transmit information that the students can acquire from reading their textbook or from notes provided on-line. Lectures which are based around a set text should be used to clarify, expand, or explain the content of the text rather than merely to repeat it. It should also not be assumed that transmission by the lecturer implies reception and learning by students. Students learn more effectively when lectures include activities which engage them in response or activity.