At university, lectures consist of a professor speaking and students taking notes. You may get the odd interaction between the professor and his students every now and then but essentially it’s simply a case of “copy down everything I’m saying”.
So, why waste the physical space of a lecture room for that? And why waste the professor’s time? Couldn’t students just read a book and take notes instead? Better yet, why can’t the professor just record his lecture once and let his students download it as a podcast? Wouldn’t it be a lot more efficient this way? You’d never get the problem of the professor or the students missing a lecture due to illness or other reasons, and everyone would be able to learn at a time that suits them.
Are lectures or reading even good ways to learn at all? Well, no, as it turns out, they are not. According to the ‘Learning Pyramid’, a student will only retain 5% of information from a lecture and 10% of information from reading.
Active learning is the most effective method for students to retain information. Active learning occurs when students participate in activities, such as discussions, which promotes the analysis, synthesis and evaluation of content. Research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Yale University compared a course in physical chemistry (taught in the traditional lecture style) to the same course taught in a “flipped” format (where lectures were moved online and more time was devoted to problem-solving activities). The results showed that, on average, exam performance was roughly 12% higher in the “flipped” class which focused on active learning.
Teachers in secondary schools and colleges are trained to teach with a heavy focus on active learning, so why don’t universities do the same?
Not all students are the same, everyone learns differently and maybe some people learn best through lectures. But shouldn’t the traditional lecture in a physical location now be extinct? As pointed out earlier, if you learn best through a lecture then why shouldn’t you listen to one via a podcast or watch lectures online? Wouldn’t it be better for their students, on average, if universities focus their teaching on active learning methods?