The lecture.

I have no doubt that most of us remember many boring lectures in our years in high school and college.

Some will say enduring such torture is part of learning, but I disagree.  In the internet age, we can hardly blame students for turning their attention to more interesting things, like their Facebook or Line feeds.

Why do teachers lecture?  Ego.

Am I learning?

The wise teacher stands in front of the students and talks.  A sage, he or she blesses the listeners with his or her sacred knowledge, which the ignorant students dutifully record in their notebooks.

Why do they listen, or pretend to?  Their grades depend on it.

How much information are the students actually learning?

Very little.

From a recent article on a study into student attention spans in Time magazine:

The study’s authors determined that students needed a three- to five-minute period of settling down, which would be followed by 10 to 18 minutes of optimal focus. Then — no matter how good the teacher or how compelling the subject matter — there would come a lapse. In the vernacular, the students would “lose it.”

It has also been repeatedly demonstrated that a person’s attention focus is generally no longer than 10 minutes.  For a detailed look at this, with loads of evidence and demonstrations, refer to Brain Rules #4.

Now look: You know that lecturing stinks.

a bored student
A student bored in a lecture

So what should you do instead of lecturing?

Some people would reason that it is better to break the lesson up into bits, such as the method used in internet or online education where videos and so on are spaced apart.  That can work, though not all that well, when information needs to be presented.

Harvard University gives several good alternatives for lecturing and ways to make lectures more involving for the students.

My opinion?

Two ways to minimize lectures and boredom.

The first thing is respect your students.  They are not fools.

If they need to be told a large amount of information at one time, give them a print.   Tell them to read it, then if really necessary, go over the main points briefly.

Second, instead of telling students information, give them the chance to discover it for themselves.  For example, by doing a project or doing research.

Certainly, some talking by the teacher is necessary, but with a little creativity, good planning, and faith in your students, you can eliminate the boring lecture from your classes.