The Teacher is Dead — Long Live the Teacher.

In a lecture setting, it is presumed that that the words uttered by sage individuals in the front of the class will drift out through the room to eternally embed themselves in the memory of the spongily attentive students. Yet there are a few problems with this picture. The role of the teacher as the sage repository of all wisdom is gone — we are now in an age of increasingly democratic and instant access to the bulk of knowledge through the wonders of technology. Yet corporations still pay for employees to attend ILT (instructor led training) and the lecture course remains the standard at universities.

Lecture-based teaching is ineffective.

Yes, words issued by learned individuals carry weight, but they fail to stick when uttered in a lecture format- especially when uttered past the five minute mark. Good luck keeping engagement and providing learning with a typical 45 minute lecture or presentation. Though the poor track record of lecture-based teaching in providing long-term content retention is well documented, but its use remains entrenched in schools and is the way to get information across in conferences and meetings. A growing appreciation of “active learning” methodologies that seek to engage students in the learning process is seeing increasing adoption as an alternative or augmentation to standard lecturing approaches.

Lecture-based teaching is ineffective, inefficient and not the best use of a teacher’s time. Click To Tweet
Lecture-based teaching is inefficient.

The idea behind a typical lecture is to jam as much information into a limited period of time — a sort of ‘brain dump’ on a given topic. While this may seem an incredibly efficient way to maximize information transfer , if you have ever tried to decipher you lecture notes , the realization that it is hard to get all of the information of the lecture back out quickly sinks in. Large chunks of content are simply challenging to mentally digest and retain in the long term, especially if there is no way to review this content.

Lecture-based teaching is not the best use of a teacher.

Trying to get interaction from students in a lecture class — whether it be freshmen in high school or employees in a corporate setting — is often akin to waiting for ice to melt. This is unfortunate, as the attempted and hoped for person-to-person interactions are the times when longer term learning is expected to occur. In many cases, the parade of facts and figures that comprise the information students are meant to retain could be more effectively consumed by students (from a learning perspective) through other means. Most college students would likely agree that significant learning did not happen during the lecture, but rather is more likely to have occurred during independent or group study sessions.

Lecture-based teaching provides poor value.

While taking a lecture class or short course, watching the parade of powerpoint slides or hastily scratched diagrams it feels like you are learning. Yet trying to recall the content from a given lecture can be challenging the evening of, let alone six months later. Even when presentation slides are provided or lecture notes are dutifully scratched down, these aids are poor representations of the original content.Providing information in a way that can’t be accessed at will and when needed is providing low value.

Why we still need teachers.

So if the lecture is such a poor way to transfer knowledge, what’s to be done and should we kick teachers to the curb in favor of potential technological fixes? The afore-mentioned active learning approach, which engages students in being part of the learning/teaching process appears to be a promising way to move into the future of effective, teacher-led learning in a class setting. With this solution, learning should improve, yet there remains the issue of having the ability to access the full breadth of the course content at a later date.

Applying appropriate technology, and changing the role of the teacher might provide greater value to the student as relates to providing improved learning and future access. Giving students access to material as appropriately structured, on-demand content (reading, audio, video) to provide baseline learning followed up with teacher-led active-learning activities and review could provide a way forward.

Changing the teaching responsibilities of the teacher in relation to technological learning solutions might provide greater value to the student. Click To Tweet

Teachers are and would continue to be needed to develop and maintain the on-demand content that could be provided though wide range of technology-enabled, on demand learning tools — spaced repetition, customized reviews, and more. Teachers could then be available for a more active and effective role in providing opportunities for discussion, clarification and review. Picture that all too common 800-strong class of undergraduate students —  nowadays usually checking social media while the prof drones on for an hour —  rather meeting with the professor in smaller study hall groups after having previously been exposed to the content through on demand channels. Picture a computer science student after graduation who can access and view the lecture on ‘just that one topic’ relevant to an issue needing resolution at work six months after completing a course.

On-demand learning systems have the potential to improve access to long-term learning, relearning and improve the effectiveness of student-teacher interactions. Click To Tweet

On-demand learning systems have the potential to provide improved, scalable access to long-term learning, relearning and improve the effectiveness of student-teacher interactions. This could free teachers being fact spewing automata and focus on engaging primed students in more meaningful learning interactions. Lets see how we can use technology to help teachers and students both achieve their goals. Long live the teacher!

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