Instructional Design — Lectures
Lectures can be an efficient and effective way to depart knowledge (Pascarella, Terenzini, 1991). Studies have found them to be just as effective as other methods, such as group discussions) when it comes to instructing declarative knowledge (knowing “that”, e.g., that Washington D.C. is the capital of America), as opposed to procedural knowledge (knowing “how”, e.g., how to drive a car).
Lecturing in the classroom should stay at a minimum as it needs to remain a place for active learning, thus whenever possible, put the lecture in an audio file, such as mp3, so that they can be uploaded to an iPod or similar device that allows them to be portable. The research is starting to show this as the best method for delivering them (Science Direct [pdf] and The Independent) and that learners prefer this method (New Scientist). For more on learning with iPods, iPods for Learning.
Although this is the most popular way to present information, since it is easy to design and implement, it can also be one of the worst methods as it can be quite passive if done incorrectly. Lectures vary from the passive, such as presenting a discourse (extended speech) on a subject, to interactive, such as a primary presenter who encourages an exchange of ideas. To improve this method as a learning device, provide plenty of activities to help the learners grasp and understand the subject. When used correctly, lectures can set the stage for deeper levels of learning to take place.
Listening is active, not passive." — Judy C. Pearson (1983)
Listening requires energy and focus, which is the beauty of a instructor verses written material. Written material assumes that every class and learner is the same it tries to take everyone down the exact same path. Yet, we are all different. This the tactical advantage that a good instructor can bring to the classroom in that an instructor can change paths as needed to fulfill the needs of the learners.
Every person brings his and her own experiences to the classroom. Thus, just because a learner reads something does not ensure that she will come to the same current consensus as a group of exemplars. The course material is the strategic guide to learning a task or subject matter, while the trainer brings the tactical edge to help guide the learners in their pursuit of task or subject mastery.
A good lecturer does not tell, rather she informs. Telling is an order — “Go do that.” You can do the exact same thing with written material. A good lecture or written material, like any other good instructional methods, helps the learners to build their own knowledge bases.
To help with lectures or discussions, having the learners create concept maps, which is a specialized form of note taking, has been shown to improve knowledge acquisition in several studies by an average of .43 of a standard deviation, which means a score would be improved by 17 percentile points (Marzano, 1998). This is because they help the learners to build their own concepts, rather than just read or hear other's concepts.
Marzano, Robert J. (1998). A Theory-Based Meta-Analysis of Research on Instruction. Mid-continent Aurora, Colorado: Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved May 2, 2000 from http://www.mcrel.org/PDF/Instruction/5982RR_InstructionMeta_Analysis.pdf
Pascarella, E. T., Terenzini, P. T. (1991). How College Affects Students. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Pearson, J. (1983). Interpersonal Communication. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foreman and Company