Lecture format of teaching

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So I watched this video from Sal Khan, basically he was talking a lot about reformation of education and how the standard lecture-type classroom model of education dates back to Prussia in the 1800's and how it follows a sort of assembly line-esque format, push kids to learn a subject by a certain age, push them on to the next subject whether or not mastery had been attained.

Basically a solution he thought of was essentially removing lectures from the classroom, where basically the teacher has the lecture in a format similar to khanacademy where the teacher has a notepad and is writing and records the lecture on video and the students can watch it whenever they want. After the students watch the video, they come to the next class meeting and it becomes a 2 hour interactive problem solving session guided by the professor.

I wanted to know opinions about this, because I think it would be actually really good, because the students can watch the videos at their own pace, because for me in a 2 hour lecture after 15 minutes I'm already losing concentration, and once I miss something, the next 1 hour and 45 minutes is lost trying to play catch up.

So I watch the videos, take note of any questions, and then run a 2 hour problem solving session with fellow students, and we do problems given by the professor, and work on them together with the professor giving us guidance. Imagine doing the homework by yourself with no one versus having a phd guiding you throughout the class session when you get stuck. It would be better because of the interaction vs. a boring lecture.

Anyway before I go off on a rant I wanted to know educators positions on this. There's a benefit to them as well, they no longer have to repeat the same lecture over and over again, but instead can do it one time, record it, and be done with it.

Video for reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g55YZj39D4A&NR=1
 

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  • #2
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I liked Khans approach. He flipped the classroom strategy upside down with watch the relevant video as homework and problem solving at school with the teacher. I'm sure some teachers aren't comfortable with that because them you have to evaluate daily and really think how to teach each student as they struggle thru a given set of problems.

Another key feature of Khans videos is the magic blackboard and the voice only talk. This is a step up from traditional training videos where the camera floats around from instructor to class to presentation. And the ten minute duration is really good too.

In our local HS, I was always frustrated by the math teachers because they never sent math tests home with the student saying the test problems were too limited and we don't want to give them out to everyone but if you want to see your test you can make an appointment and see after school. I found it extremely difficult to help my son when I couldn't see where he went wrong and the teachers were seldom available at a time when I could meet with them.

As a caveat, I'm not a formal teacher although I've taught classes on programming and mentored several HS students in our lab summer program doing programming projects.
 
  • #3
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i am not a khan supporter at all, he does as much harm as he does good

HOWEVER

i do admire the idea of the flipped classroom. he is not the originator of this concept and it has been around for quite some time.

the flipped model works for more learning styles than the traditional lecture method.
 
  • #4
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There are two types of students: passive and active.
Passive students need the teacher's structure. Active students use their own structure. For this reason alone, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work, which is what Khan is suggesting by tailoring to active students. Now, if he can collect only active students, then his approach would work. But if he were to have a mixture of students in a public school, then it heavily skews toward passive students. His approach will not work, at least not initially.
 
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  • #5
lurflurf
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Lecture is a relic on a time before mass printing. It was when students copied the book will their quill. Now the main benefit is it is one of the few methods of instruction where one person can "teach" a thousand at a time in those large lecture classes that make colleges so rich.
 
  • #6
pasmith
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Lecture is a relic on a time before mass printing. It was when students copied the book will their quill. Now the main benefit is it is one of the few methods of instruction where one person can "teach" a thousand at a time in those large lecture classes that make colleges so rich.
I suppose it's a trade-off between buying an expensive textbook, or copying out the lecturer's notes by hand. At least everything in the lecturer's notes should be examinable, and where there are multiple conventions on definition or notation then the lecturer's ought to be consistent with that used in the exam.

Lectures, like textbooks, are a source of information. They don't, in my experience, assist in learning or understanding the material; that comes through smaller interactive group sessions and individual study.
 
  • #7
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Having experienced a "trial version" of this lecture style an an engineering class, I can say that I'm not against it, but I don't think it's as great as it's made out to be.

One minor issue is that time management can be a bit tougher because if you don't watch the videos before every class period, then the class period is a complete waste of time. In the "traditional" model, it's a little easier to push back study-time for one class to make room for something more important in another class while still learning something in the class period.

Another issue I think is that people are very different when it comes to working through practice problems, making it difficult to do that in a large group. Having worked through the pre-classroom-time video or whatever, people are going to be at rather different levels of understanding. Some people will understand the material really well and finish the problems quickly without learning much because the problems are too easy to really help them learn. Other people won't understand well and will take a long time to finish or won't do anything at all because the problems are too hard to help them learn. I personally find that even in regular classes the time I spend doing problems by myself or with a small group is WAY more efficient than the time we spend doing problems as a whole class in tutorials. I guess my point is, I feel that it's easier to make a lecture that will benefit 80% of the class than it is to make a "practice problem" time that's beneficial to 80% of the class. The reason being that before they learn a new topic, most people are going to be more or less on the same page, but afterwards, they tend to diverge in how well they understand and what they need to focus on in order to learn something.

As odd as it may sound, I actually find the flipped classroom to give the student less flexibility than the traditional lecture style. You almost have to manage your time carefully so that right before each class period you understand stuff just well enough that the classroom time is actually understandable, but not so well that you're not learning anything.

Of course, that's all just my opinion, and those opinions may have something to do with my personal learning style. There are definitely advantages to this approach, and there are definitely disadvantages to the traditional lecture style. The reasons above are just why I'm not going to be demanding a change any time soon.
 
  • #8
lurflurf
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^If you are behind you will be confused no matter what. In a traditional class one is assumed to have attended previous lectures, taken the time to review and understand them, and prepared for the present lecture. Time management is easier flipped because one can watch the lecture at any time during a window instead of at one particular time and they can repeat, skip, or pause as many times as needed. If flipping motivates students that is good not bad. You are right that lecture is the most practical method of instruction for large classes. Law schools use Socratic method in medium size classes though. You are quite lucky if you experience is that lecture is beneficial to 80% of the class. They key point is a lecture is not interactive so the benefits of being in the room with others is less than with interactive methods of instruction.
 
  • #9
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^If you are behind you will be confused no matter what. In a traditional class one is assumed to have attended previous lectures, taken the time to review and understand them, and prepared for the present lecture. Time management is easier flipped because one can watch the lecture at any time during a window instead of at one particular time and they can repeat, skip, or pause as many times as needed. If flipping motivates students that is good not bad. You are right that lecture is the most practical method of instruction for large classes. Law schools use Socratic method in medium size classes though. You are quite lucky if you experience is that lecture is beneficial to 80% of the class. They key point is a lecture is not interactive so the benefits of being in the room with others is less than with interactive methods of instruction.
You do raise a good point. I'm probably pretty biased when it comes to the time management aspect simply because I spent a few years getting used to time management under the lecture format, but only a few weeks getting used to time management under the flipped format (and even then, it was only for one class). Maybe testing this method should be done on first-year students, rather than students who have spent years getting used to the traditional method.

The 80% I quoted wasn't meant to be a quantitative measure of how beneficial a lecture is (that number would depend a lot on your definition of "beneficial" anyway...). My point was just that I found the lectures to be a lot more useful to a wider range of students than the flipped format. I'm willing to concede, though, that this may have had something to do with the large class size (well over 100), and the format might have worked better if the class had been smaller. Also, this was one of the more difficult theoretical classes of the semester, which may have lead to a wider range of student proficiency with the subject matter, exacerbating the problem further.
 
  • #10
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So I watched this video from Sal Khan, basically he was talking a lot about reformation of education and how the standard lecture-type classroom model of education dates back to Prussia in the 1800's and how it follows a sort of assembly line-esque format
That's what Sir Ken Robinson says.

British education was to provide workers for factories as part of the Industrial Revolution. Schools are run as the image of those same factories, with students going in batches & being "processed" along the way.


Basically a solution he thought of was essentially removing lectures from the classroom, where basically the teacher has the lecture in a format similar to khanacademy where the teacher has a notepad and is writing and records the lecture on video and the students can watch it whenever they want. After the students watch the video, they come to the next class meeting and it becomes a 2 hour interactive problem solving session guided by the professor.
Its called Flip Teaching.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching
 
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  • #11
symbolipoint
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Lectures, like textbooks, are a source of information. They don't, in my experience, assist in learning or understanding the material; that comes through smaller interactive group sessions and individual study.
My experience as a student was much different than that. Lectures were often extremely beneficial.
 
  • #12
symbolipoint
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from lurflurf:

They key point is a lecture is not interactive so the benefits of being in the room with others is less than with interactive methods of instruction.

Good lecture lessons and instruction include interaction. Students must be allowed to ask questions. Often what one student asks, one or more other students also want to ask but had not yet taken the urge to ask it. The teacher being present in the lecture session CAN interact as needed during the lecture plan.
 
  • #13
mathwonk
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there do exist good lectures. the best ones i have seen overall were at harvard where lecturing was a high art. but one has to go away and think about and discuss what one has heard in the lecture to maximize the benefit, and really learn the material. there were also lecturers who could make them interactive.
 
  • #14
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from lurflurf:Good lecture lessons and instruction include interaction. Students must be allowed to ask questions. Often what one student asks, one or more other students also want to ask but had not yet taken the urge to ask it. The teacher being present in the lecture session CAN interact as needed during the lecture plan.
Questions fall under two main categories:
1) clarification/classification (i.e. What did you say? What is that?)
2) comparison of knowledge (i.e. I heard that...? Isn't it true that...? What do you think about...?)

Any question that can be asked will fall into one of these two categories. If you want to know what something is, that's classification. If you want to know how new information fits with prior knowledge, that's comparison of knowledge. (Comparing knowledge is also called "critical thinking".)

For teachers, it's important to know these two categories because students' questions must be matched with the correct answer category. If a student asks a classification question, the answer should be a classification answer, which is usually a short answer. It's no use answering a classification question with a comparison of knowledge answer because in order to compare something, they must know what they are comparing. Only once they have the classification, and have prior knowledge, can that new knowledge be compared with old knowledge.

Here are the ramifications of understanding these two types of questions:
If students ask clarification/classification questions, then the students do not have a solid grasp of the concepts or simply do not know them. (Students who know they are ignorant are not likely to ask such questions because it exposes that ignorance.) If students ask these questions during or after a lecture, then the teacher was not clear in the lecture. If the teacher was clear, then no clarification/classification questions will be asked.

If the teacher was clear, and questions are asked, then these questions will only be comparison of knowledge questions. These questions are an attempt to understand related ideas/knowledge, usually closely related but sometimes distantly related. For the teacher, it's important to know what knowledge students hold and to answer these questions in a manner that connects that knowledge together.
 
  • #15
mathwonk
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"If students ask these questions during or after a lecture, then the teacher was not clear in the lecture. If the teacher was clear, then no clarification/classification questions will be asked.

If the teacher was clear, and questions are asked, then these questions will only be comparison of knowledge questions."


this is an interesting comment, but does not agree with my experience, unless you are defining "clear" in a relative sense by your statement, i.e. a lecture is clear by definition if and only if the students all understand it. but it certainly occurs frequently that a lecture can be absolutely crystal clear in organization, expression, and complete with examples, and yet some people will not get it.

some students do not come to lecture with a grasp of prerequisite material, or do not listen well, and some do not have a command of simple logic, or even a grasp of the meaning of some common words or grammatical constructions. many students also just take notes instead of listening, or find themselves missing something they want to hear while writing notes.

Have you ever given a series of lectures, or done any teaching? Just a guess, but your confident and categorical statements suggest to me that you have not.
 
  • #16
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If a statement is made, and a clarification/classification question is asked, then the statement was not clear. The question is a direct response for the need to clarify/classify.

Instructors nearly never practice what they are going to say. They don't spend the time (out of the classroom) to word their ideas to be concise and economical. This takes an incredible amount of time. Instead, what they nearly always do, is to say what they know during their lecture. They are unprepared (even though they say the opposite.)

How you present information directly affects the students' level of attention. E.g. of cause and effect: many lecturers do not have command of their words and actions so students don't pay attention. Having command (i.e. presentation skills) directly increases that attention. This is why news reporters can hold viewers' attention because they have these skill sets in abundance.

What you describe here:
"some students do not come to lecture with a grasp of prerequisite material, or do not listen well, and some do not have a command of simple logic, or even a grasp of the meaning of some common words or grammatical constructions. many students also just take notes instead of listening, or find themselves missing something they want to hear while writing notes."
1. Why are they allowed to take the course if they haven't passed prerequisite courses? or, did you mean that they didn't learn prior course material well enough to attend the lecture?
2. Not everyone has command of English as students may be foreign-born or unfamiliar with the language within the topic.
3. Logic, in this case, would mean making connections with related material, no? Not logic in the mathematical sense.
4. Taking notes is an ineffective way at learning. It's a memory aide, but not memory. Memory requires work, and little time is given to students to store information to LTM, let alone give ideas enough time in STM, hence the reason why so many students are compelled to take notes. Another way of saying this: note-taking is the teacher's problem.


Have you ever given a series of lectures, or done any teaching?
Yes, I've taught quite a lot over many, many years. I've had much time to reflect on my own practices as well as the practices of other teachers. What I describe is supported by the literature as well as from my own experiences.
 
  • #17
atyy
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But in this format you can't ask questions during the lecture. It's no different than asking the student to just read the textbook first, except that now the textbook is a video. If you are losing concentration 15 minutes into the lecture, then either you or your lecturer isn't prepared (but maybe I don't blame you if it's a 2 hour lecture!).
 
  • #18
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In my opinion, I can't ask meaningful questions during a lecture because I haven't even absorbed the information or know what to ask. It's not until I am able to work a problem, then I become stuck and that's where I find out what concept I don't understand, it would be a lot better to work in groups and not be able to solve questions in class, only to have them clarified by the professor after some work has been put in, rather than ask questions about a problem that the professor is completely handing to you without previously attempting to solve it yourself.

I never know what I don't know until I try it out, and definitely I don't know what I don't know when the lecture is being presented
 
  • #19
atyy
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In my opinion, I can't ask meaningful questions during a lecture because I haven't even absorbed the information or know what to ask.
Do you feel you understand the lecture when listening to it?
 
  • #20
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Depends lecture to lecture, sometimes I don't understand it, and other times I do, but there are a lot of nuances that are not mentioned or looked over when the professor is lecturing, or doesn't allude to that I completely miss, hence not knowing what I don't know. How do I know if I understand the lecture??? Certainly not unless I can solve a problem on my own. Not only that, but at the end of the day I have no idea what my lecture was even about, not even the content of the lecture, let alone the details.

I like to think of it like playing chess. Imagine telling everyone the rules of chess and writing on a white board a chess board for 1 hour, and then expecting the players to absorb much. I think I wouldn't even know how 75% of the pieces move after a lecture on how to play chess. You have to play it and make lots of mistakes until realizing how everything works.

So, imagine if the professor made a video on how to play chess, then the next day students came in and played chess against each other, and when they got stuck, then the professor could help them.
 
  • #21
Andy Resnick
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<snip>I like to think of it like playing chess. Imagine telling everyone the rules of chess and writing on a white board a chess board for 1 hour, and then expecting the players to absorb much. I think I wouldn't even know how 75% of the pieces move after a lecture on how to play chess. You have to play it and make lots of mistakes until realizing how everything works.
<snip>
This is an excellent analogy, because it highlights an essential feature of learning: time. Time and effort are required to learn new things, even more time and effort is required to become proficient in something, and even more time and effort is required to master something. And mastery of a subject does not preclude 'continuous improvement', through additional time and effort.

Efforts to increase the rate at which learning occurs generally fail, regardless of the instructional methodology. There are no shortcuts.
 
  • #22
atyy
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Depends lecture to lecture, sometimes I don't understand it, and other times I do, but there are a lot of nuances that are not mentioned or looked over when the professor is lecturing, or doesn't allude to that I completely miss, hence not knowing what I don't know. How do I know if I understand the lecture??? Certainly not unless I can solve a problem on my own. Not only that, but at the end of the day I have no idea what my lecture was even about, not even the content of the lecture, let alone the details.

I like to think of it like playing chess. Imagine telling everyone the rules of chess and writing on a white board a chess board for 1 hour, and then expecting the players to absorb much. I think I wouldn't even know how 75% of the pieces move after a lecture on how to play chess. You have to play it and make lots of mistakes until realizing how everything works.

So, imagine if the professor made a video on how to play chess, then the next day students came in and played chess against each other, and when they got stuck, then the professor could help them.
Maybe because chess is complicated? Just kidding - I really suck at chess, and gave up trying to get better many years ago. Anyway, I certainly do think different formats are good depending on teacher and student. What I wouldn't like to see is a doctrinaire insistence that only one method is good. I have had superb teachers who gave 45-50 minute lectures, and also superb teachers in mathematics (for my low level), who basically gave 10 minute lectures and spend the rest of the hour having us do problems in class and helping us immediately when we got stuck.
 
  • #23
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That's good to acknowledge that there may be more than one one to do it, but my experience has been that virtually all professors do the straight lecture, with nothing to what Sal has been suggesting
 
  • #24
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This semester I was a TA for a physics course that had a flipped format. I was actually surprised at the amount of students who came to class prepared. I was expecting maybe ~20% to have watched the online lectures, but the number was closer to ~80%. The students' feelings and performance varied throughout the semester. They did really well for the first month. In the middle of the semester students were complaining to me about the difficulty of the material, the format, the professor, etc. Towards the end (about last month or so) their performance picked back up again.

Overall, I really enjoyed the format. It was a great learning experience and I got to know some of the students really well. They'd talk to me if I bumped into them in the hallway. The only things I didn't like were grading (half the time) and proctoring exams. lol

I also took a class from a professor that used Moore's method. This class was a lot of fun - it did involve quite a bit of effort, but class was actually enjoyable. I've also had professors do a mixture of lecturing and something else (e.g. working through handouts, large amount of class discussion). Just from my experiences, I've definitely found the non-traditional approaches more enjoyable than pure lectures.
 
  • #25
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I like lectures and regular, weekly homework assignments for a reason I haven't seen much discussion of here. They're open-ended. I have particular ways of learning, ways that I like to review concepts and troubleshoot misconceptions, just like everyone does. They're different from everyone else's, though. Some people like to get together and study in groups, talking things through with each other. I like to sit in my bathrobe and go over the book until I understand every sentence and the steps and assumptions in every derivation. Some people like to do as many problems from the book as possible. I like to pick out the most interesting ones and turn them inside out until I'm satisfied. Everyone is different, and the basic lecture-textbook-assignment format lets everyone tailor the class to their own style.

Problem solving in groups with a professor on hand eager to help me out as soon as there's the slightest difficulty it not my style. It frustrates me. I have to go through the worksheet in one hour, and everyone is too eager to help me out at the slightest sign of hesitation. I like to sit there and struggle and have an Aha! moment three hours later. That's just how I learn. But in one of my classes last quarter I was being forced to do this other thing, and it was extremely unnatural and hard for me to get used to. Now, I'm sure some people loved it. But they can get that on their own if they want it. And with the lecture classes, they do. They get together in groups in the common area for our department and help each other with the homework and study, and when they all need some help there are even more students on hand or the professor's office twenty feet away. Meanwhile, people who don't like that go do other things and everyone is happy.

I think the lecture format is very open-ended. The text is the reference. The source of material. The homework assignments are given, and deadlines assigned. That is what you will be graded on. The lectures are so the professor can tailor the material (text) to the specific class. They are for customizing the material. The professor then makes him/herself available for questions during office hours. From there, everyone can tailor the rest of the class experience to their own style and needs. It requires that you know a lot about yourself to successfully manage that, but that's an important skill in life. No matter how the class is structured, no one can teach you anything but yourself in the end. If people want a Khan-style class, they will make it one. I see it all the time. If people want to skip the lectures, read the book/watch videos and then only show up for tests, they will do that. If people want to talk one-on-one with the professor, they will do that.
 

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