This week I have been to four lectures, on different topics, given by four different lecturers. 

First lecture:  75 minutes long, no opportunity to ask questions, the lecturer read a written text in a flat monotone, no humour, no visual aids. Verdict: Insulting and boring.

Second lecture:  60 minutes long plus 30 minutes for questions, the lecturer spoke annimatedly without notes, plenty of humour, no visual aids.  Verdict: Fun to listen to but little recall of anything other than a few of the best jokes.

Third lecture:  45 minutes, no opportunity for questions, fast delivery with a relentless bombardment of colourful PowerPoints, no humour.  Verdict: Overwhelming – impossible to remember anything.

Fourth lecture:  30 minutes, no opportunity for questions, enthusiastic delivery without reference to notes, sensible use of PowerPoints, no humour – but the enthusiasm made up for this. Verdict: Enjoyable and succeeded in whetting my appetite.

The experience has left me wondering (not for the first time) why we are so tolerant of such a hopeless way of helping people to learn.  But this assumes that learning is the purpose.  Perhaps the whole point of a lecture is to give the lecturer a chance to exhibit their superior knowledge; in other words, to show off?   All four lecturers undoubtedly knew their stuff, but I don’t think they really cared a jot about their listeners.  It was up to us to cope with information over-load as best we could. 

That’s the trouble with lectures as a method; they are selfish, one-sided affairs.  All the focus is on transmission regardless of reception.  They have as much regard for the audience as an expert talking on the radio to an empty room.

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