Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lecture, Direct-Instruction or Talk - There's the Confusion!

In yesterday's weekly #edchat Twitter collaboration the discussion focused on the flipped classroom, where, naturally, there was quite a bit of debate around the idea of video lectures. What became apparent was the many different interpretations of the term 'lecture'. This came to the forefront for me when I offered up the idea of TED Talks as one option for learning rather than a teacher's video lecture, and someone said "TED talks are just lectures, so how is that better?"

This stumped me as I have never thought of a TED talk as a lecture, which is funny, because now, forced to think about it, I guess they could be construed as lectures, depending on your definition. Which of course has led me to this post!  Obviously, my perception of a lecture is not the same as others.

What is MY definition of a lecture?

Perhaps it's my many years of being both a student and a teacher, but for me a 'lecture' has rather negative connotations, as I envision a lecture as someone standing at the front of the room giving out information and facts that are to be written down, learned and/or memorized.  When I think lecture, I think teacher/person talking, students/people listening (or sleeping) and absorbing the information, whether that be through just listening or taking notes.  Little interaction/engagement or back-and-forth. As a student, this is what I remember most from my high school and early college days (and thankfully not so much the case in my current doctoral studies which are much more collaborative).  Think huge lecture halls with a professor talking at us.  Lecturing. Spewing information that at some point we need to regurgitate. In my mind, a lecture is a stand-and-deliver form of imparting information. Sit and get, as we say, and not terribly engaging.

Lecture is often misconstrued with direct-instruction. My definition of direct-instruction is also someone with the "knowledge" giving out information, but I think perhaps the difference might be that direct-instruction involves more how-to type information.  Many lectures involve direct-instruction components, but I do think you can have direct-instruction that is not a lecture.  For example, in math, a teacher can use direct-instruction to show the steps in solving an equation, which would not be a lecture by my definition. But, you could be lecturing on what an equation is and the different types of equations, and then show the how-to of solving an equation, which I then would construe as a lecture with direct-instruction. (Neither of which I think is a great way to teach math, by the way).

Now, back to a TED Talk.  I think that right there sums up what I see these as - talks.  Not lectures, not direct-instruction, but talks.  Which, while very similar to a lecture, also very different in my book.  A talk imparts knowledge and information but interweaves that knowledge and information with stories or contextual applications and connections. A talk makes a concerted effort to engage the audience/students.  Engagement, whether through questioning and interacting with the audience/students or simply by providing visuals or real-world applications and examples or models, is to me the difference between a lecture and a talk. There are plenty of teachers who talk to, and with, their students rather than lecture at them and to me, that makes a world of difference in learning.

Here are examples of what I am defining as lecture, direct-instruction, and talks.  Which one would you be more engaged by?

Lecture (this is LONG...but the first few minutes will give you the idea):


Direct Instruction:



Of course, this is all my own personal take on the differences between lectures, direct-instruction and talks. In the context of the #edchat discussion yesterday about the flipped classroom, my point was that I believe there is too much reliance on video lectures and direct-instruction videos. If you are going to use the power of technology to flip your classroom, then go beyond the traditional methods of teaching and look at all possible online resources, such as TED talks, or real-world stories (see for one example of this).  It's NOT the videos that make flipped classrooms effective, it's the engagement, collaboration, discovery, ownership and ability to explore anything, anyway, anytime and then come back together in the classroom to share, discuss, and learn together. So - no more lectures and direct-instruction. Start talking!

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