Lecture Fail?

March 19, 2012, 6:38 am

Jeff Young from the Chronicle has started a flame war conversation on the future of lecturing in higher education by having students send in videos with their thoughts on lecture, followed by professors sending in their videos on the same thing (and to rebut the student comments). Here’s my response, which shows up at the main discussion thread but a few slots below the main professors’ video:

To sum up my main points from this video:

  1. The discussion shouldn’t be about whether we are pro-lecture or anti-lecture, but whether lecture works in terms of student learning, where by “student” we mean the learners that are actually there in the classes we are teaching at the moment.
  2. When you frame it that way, lecture by itself is often a poor choice and we need to be open to using whatever combination of teaching tools best enables our students to learn.
  3. Something that universities could do to help make faculty teaching more effective would be to move away from the traditional course evaluation as the main instrument for measuring teacher effectiveness, and to allow professors also to use statistically validated measures of student learning like pre- and post-test measurements of learning gains along with standard evaluations.

A little more on that last point. Course evaluations are not totally worthless, but they do tend toward measuring personality more than actual learning gains. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an evaluation that actually measures student learning. Instead, they measure student satisfaction which is a much, much different thing. Why not let profs conduct studies on their students’ learning, not for research purposes necessarily but just to provide a more objective counterbalance to traditional evaluations? This sort of thing is actually explicitly suggested to faculty at GVSU, and when I first saw this when I came here it struck me as being an eminently sensible thing to do. It would also help faculty start thinking rigorously about student learning and hone their SoTL chops.

What do you think?

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