I am no fan of a traditional lecture. Whether I’m presenting at a conference or teaching a class of students, my goal is never to stand there and talk without interaction from the audience for a long time.

But I love listening to lectures. I love watching them. I love podcasts that are essentially lectures. I love listening to an expert dive deep into their favorite topic.

Yes, there is a place for lectures inside and outside of our schools.

So, again, what is a lecture?  In a discussion I participated in on twitter recently, it was posed that a lecture is “one-way instruction that is at least 5 minutes in time.”  That is certainly one definition…but there are countless other definitions. My question is, so what should we call one-way instruction lasting 4 minutes, 59 seconds?  Like most aspects of education, it is quite difficult to reach consensus on a term as universal as ‘lecture’. Maybe my interpretation of the lecture is too liberal, but it is difficult for me to comprehend the disdain for this method of instruction.  I simply don’t understand how it is passive or simply creates an environment of rote-learning and memorization (By the way, what is so wrong with memorization and knowledge?). Again, this could simply come down to a misunderstanding of the basic definition.  

In Defense of Lecture in the Classroom

I don’t think anyone would argue that forcing students to focus on a single person for 45 minutes as they drone on about a topic that holds no interest for students is a bad idea.

But are there specific purposes a lecture can serve? Yep.

When considering whether a lecture might be the right choice for a particular lesson, this resource from the University of Tennessee offers some guidelines. It advises that lecture is a good fit when:

  • The background information is not available or accessible to students
  • The content may be confusing (and therefore need explanation)
  • The teacher’s expertise will help make the material more clear
  • The material needs to be delivered quickly 
10 Ways to Give a Better Lecture

How do you use lectures in your class? Or do you avoid them at all costs?