Is the Lecture Dead?

This is the first of a series of teaching tips, infused with active strategies, that aim to make your lectures dynamic, and help your students remember and apply the content. These tips are based on Harrington and Zakrajsek’s Dynamic Lecturing (2017).

The answer is a resounding “no!” Research indicates we should revise our lectures to include more active learning strategies, not that we should abandon the lecture altogether. TED talks (aka lectures), for example, are well done and effective. There are also some learning situations that call for an initial lecture over an active strategy, as when pairing two chemicals could result in an explosion.

Lectures are efficient and effective, especially for foundational content. When an expert (faculty) explains a concept or works an example, novices learn more than if they had performed an active learning event. As student background knowledge increases (upper-undergraduate, graduate student), learners often get more from active strategies than lectures. The point to keep in mind is that the choice is not either lecture or active, but a combination of the two, tailored to the material to be conveyed and the knowledge level of the students.