Lectures vs. Discussions
New teachers are warned against giving lectures all the time. However, it is important to note that there is a time and a place for a good lecture. With that said, however, most lectures can benefit from the addition of questions leading to a Group Discussion situation. I’ve written two articles that look at the pros and cons of both lectures and discussions. Hopefully each of these can help you as you make choices for lesson plans throughout the year.
Lecture as a Teaching Method: Lecture is when an instructor is the central focus of information transfer. Typically, an instructor will stand before a class and present information for the students to learn. Usually, very little exchange occurs between the instructor and the students during a lecture.
Pros of Lecture as a Teaching Method:
- Lectures are a straightforward way to impart knowledge to students quickly.
- Instructors also have a greater control over what is being taught in the classroom because they are the sole source of information.
- Students who are auditory learners find that lectures appeal to their learning style.
- Logistically, a lecture is often easier to create than other methods of instruction.
- Lecture is a method familiar to most teachers because it was typically the way they were taught.
- Because most college courses are lecture-based, students gain experience in this predominant instructional delivery method.
Cons of Lecture as a Teaching Method:
- Students strong in learning styles other than auditory learning will have a harder time being engaged by lectures.
- Students who are weak in note-taking skills will have trouble understanding what they should remember from lectures.
- Students can find lectures boring causing them to lose interest.
- Students may not feel that they are able to ask questions as they arise during lectures.
- Teachers may not get a real feel for how much students are understanding because there is not that much opportunity for exchanges during lectures.
Final Thoughts : Lectures are one tool in a teacher’s arsenal of teaching methods. Just as with all the other tools, it should only be used when most appropriate. Instruction should be varied from day to day to help reach the most students possible. Teachers should be cautioned that before heading into numerous classes full of nothing but lectures, they need to provide their students with note taking skills. Only by helping students understand verbal clues and learn methods of organizing and taking notes will they truly help them become successful and get the most out of lectures.
Whole Group Discussion as a Teaching Method: Whole Group Discussion is a modified form of classroom lecture where the focus is shared between the instructor and the students for information transfer. Typically, an instructor will stand before a class and present information for the students to learn but the students will also participate by answering questions and providing examples.
Pros of Whole Group Discussion as a Teaching Method:
- Whole group discussions provide for greater interaction between teacher and students.
- Instructors maintain a greater control over what is being taught because they are able to steer the discussion.
- Auditory learners find them appealing to their learning style.
- Teachers can check on what students are retaining through questions posed.
- Whole group discussion is comfortable for many teachers because it is a modified form of lecture.
- Students have a tendency to stay focused on the lesson because they might be called on to answer questions.
- Students may feel more comfortable asking questions during whole group discussions.
Cons of Whole Group Discussion as a Teaching Method:
- Whole group discussions require setting up and enforcing ground rules for students. If these rules are not enforced then there is a possibility that the discussion could quickly go off-topic.
- Students who are weak in note-taking skills will have trouble understanding what they should remember from group discussions. This is even more so than in lectures in many cases because not only the teacher but fellow students are talking about the lesson.
- Some students may not feel comfortable being put on the spot during a whole group discussion.
Final Thoughts : Whole group discussions are an excellent teaching method when used in conjunction with other methods. Instruction should be varied from day to day to help reach the most students possible. Teachers need to provide their students with note taking skills before starting discussions. It is important that teachers be good at managing and facilitating discussions. Questioning techniques are effective for this. Two questioning techniques that teachers employ is to increase their wait time after questions are asked and to only ask one question at a time.