Is ‘lecture’ a 4-letter word?

I’m amazed at how my assumptions continue to be challenged by my daily practice.

I clearly assume project-based work to be a richer form of learning than lecture for all kinds of reason – students need to collaborate and therefore work on social skills, students are asked to be creative, there is more depth than breadth in the learning, all students are actively learning rather than passively listening and taking notes…I could go on but you can fill in the rest yourself, I’m sure.

Today I gave a lecture in Economics where I presented how we measure economic activity in Canada and different types of economies. I dread giving lectures. I assume that students will hate them, that they will zone out, that their time would better be used doing their own research. Today I encountered just the opposite. My students were actively engaged in their learning throughout my lecture. Really! They were calling me on everything, making sure I explained each concept until they got it, offering each other alternative explanations and examples to help in understanding. Granted, this was solely for the purpose of gathering knowledge, no analysis or synthesis or other creative activity was needed but I really believe that they are more prepared for such activities as a result of the class we had today.

Lecture is not the 4-letter word I have come to equate it with.

I like being thrown on my backside like that.

props to my kids…


  1. On the rare occasion that I lecture, I find that because we have been modeling the cooperative model, students feel free to engage in a discussion with me as the lecture progresses. The lectures we all dread – both giving and listening too – are the painfully one sided, power-pointy (or back in the day over-heady), brain dumps from a teacher who isn’t really aware of whether or not the listeners are engaged.

    I’m delighted that your lecture went well today. I am certain it is because you are a teacher that students feel respects their time, intelligence, and attention. Kudos.

    Kate Ts last blog post at [site]..If I had a theme song

  2. Although lectures may be a comfortable resort for a teacher as everything is planned before hand and chances of unexpected events are slim, it is wiser to devise one’s teaching to be a true learning through exploration instead of explanation. Acquisition occurs by doing not by “viewing”. Lectures are long explanations while learning is deep exploration!

    Nightwalkers last blog post at [site]..Why do teachers teach?

  3. I think you are right, Kate. Because we model that it is ok to challenge and question the students are comfortable with it and turn a lecture into an exploratory activity.

    Nightwalker, read some more of my blog posts and you will see that my teaching style is very student-centered. In fact, lecture is not a comfortable resort for me and other teachers who hold the same assumptions about lectures as I described in this post. That was the whole idea behind the post – I assumed that lectures were uni-dimensional, teacher centered, and boring and I was proven wrong by the level of engagement of my students.

    I will respectfully argue your point that “everything is planned before hand and chances of unexpected events are slim”. For sure, the basic content is planned but there was no way for me to plan the questions and level of inquiry that my students had.

  4. Nightwalker, please tell us how to teach about nullification (specifically, the crisis with South Carolina) and federalism by exploration! I’m dying to know!

    Look, we concede that discovery is an ideal way to learn. Building knowledge together is fabulous, too. Practicing a skill is terrific. But no one can “discover” federalism. We can look for examples once the explanation is over, sure, but you gotta admit that lecturing about such abstract concepts is not “a comfortable resort” but a logical starting ground. And a great teacher who creates an awesome learning environment will lead a fabulous, interactive lecture!

    Holler “uncle” or show me how I’m wrong–I’ll be satisfied either way!

  5. Lola, you’ve explained my intention with this post wonderfully. Thanks so much for adding to the conversation!

  6. So your economics class is mostly student collaborations & projects? I just like to be sure I understand this completely: You rarely lecture. Would you like to share some of your teaching pedagogy/strategies/activities with us? What does a typical lesson look like in your classroom.

  7. I think i’ve lectured more this year than EVER in my life-and i still hate it! LOL! And what you’ve said is sooo true, its not a four letter word. It you structure it right, you ask questions, students add in comments. Today we had such a good discussion, I had to calm the students down b/c everyone wanted to comment/ask questions.

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