Wednesday, 19 December 2007

10 Reasons for using Lectures

Donald Clark has written a post 10 reasons to dump lectures. I agree that we use lectures too often and they often done badly. But I also think good lectures are irreplaceable. (Good lectures are broken into 15-20 minute sections, have a limited number of learning obectives, plan for interaction and participation, include opportunities for recall etc.) So here's 10 reasons for using (good) lectures.

1. The lecturer can control the learning environment. Temperature, lighting, seating.
2. The learner is taken away from the distractions of the workplace. It makes it clear that their main task at this time is to learn.
3. The learner knows what to expect. They are in familiar territory and are not distracted by coming to grips with a new way of learning.
4. Learners have an opportunity to network and learn from each other.
5. Fixing a time for learning provides a focal point for getting it done and avoids prevarication.
6. Development costs can be low compared to most other methods.
7. Development time can be low compared to most other methods.
8. Delivery costs are small for small numbers of learners located close to the lecture.
9. Can combine flexibility with directed instruction. Directed instruction is good for novices (Kirschner, Sweller and Clark, 2006*). A good knowledgeable lecturer can adjust that direction to the needs of the learners.
10. It is possible to measure progress against affective objectives (albeit through subjective assessment by lecturer). A good lecturer can judge whether the learners are enthusiastic, convinced, sceptical etc in a way that is very difficult to do at reasonable cost with other media.

*Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., and Clark, R. E. (2006). "Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching". Educational Psychologist 41 (2): 75-86

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Learning Circuits Blog: December Big Question - What did you learn about learning?

The Learning Circuits Blog: December Big Question - What did you learn about learning?

Learning Circuits have revived their Big Question of the Month. And this month it is "What did you learn about learning in 2007?". I am afraid my biggest lessons were negative and were lessons about the degree to which bad things happen rather than totally new ideas:

Even more than I realised, management are almost always content with the box ticked which shows that a "course" with an appropriate title was placed in front of the learner and the learner didn't complain. This then clears them of responsibility for training.

Professional educators are even more obsessed than I thought with the design and content of formal learning events - whether they be e-learning, classroom or whatever. Perhaps because that is the bit they can most easily influence. They ignore the context in which this event falls. However, a mediocre course in a great context where the learner is motivated, given time and space, and will be able to relate the learning to their life will succeed. A terrific learning event in a lousy context will fail every time.

Certification tests are even more meaninglesss than I realised. E.g. I was given an opportunity to take the ECDL tests free of charge. I comfortably passed the database test on the basis of skimming the chapter in a book. I have only opened Access once in my entire life. However, the Certiport tests for Microsoft products appear a bit better.

On a more positive note I am more and more impressed by the resourcefulness of individuals in learning what they need to learn despite the obstacles we place in their path.