After spending over a decade doing little but lecturing, this term I’ve been teaching a big intro biostats course as a flipped class. My anecdotal impression is that this makes me somewhat unusual, at least among profs at research universities. I think most science faculty mostly lecture–heck, I still do in my other classes! But do science faculty mostly lecture? And if so, why is that, given that pedagogical research says that lecturing is less effective on average than other teaching methods?
I’m curious about this because of my sense that the often-vigorous online debate about lecturing is somewhat disconnected from many profs’ pedagogical decision-making. If you want to convince people to lecture less, you have to address their reasons for lecturing. There are lots of reasons why people might lecture. But anecdotally, the critics of lecturing whom I’ve read make little attempt to discover and address the reasons why most people lecture. For instance, citing modern pedagogical research isn’t going to cut much ice with people who are well aware of that research, but lecture anyway because they think the alternatives would be a lot more work. Similarly, faculty who mostly don’t lecture presumably teach as they do for various reasons.
So to get some anecdata, below is a little two-question poll, asking how much you lecture, and why (well, there are three questions, but your answer to the first question determines whether you answer the second or third question). It’s a totally anonymous survey that will only take you a minute to complete, please fill it out. 🙂 I’ll publish and discuss the results in a future post. (UPDATE: poll now closed.)
If you teach multiple classes that are taught differently, you can complete the poll multiple times, once for each class. If you only teach part of a team-taught class, just answer for the part that you teach. If you haven’t taught a class or a substantial portion of one (say, you’ve only served as a TA), sorry, this poll’s not for you.
This poll is intended to be descriptive, not prescriptive. I’m not arguing for or against lecturing here! I’m just genuinely curious why people teach as they do.
Important note on how to answer the first question: By “lecture”, I mean “the instructor talks, the students listen”. So if you devote 20% of class time to clicker questions, small group discussion, quizzes, etc., and 80% to talking while the students listen, that would be 80% lecturing. And when I ask what proportion of class time you devote to lecture, don’t count labs (so a course with 3 hours/week of 100% lecture plus a weekly 3 hour lab is 100% lecture for purposes of this poll, not 50% lecture).
Looking forward to your responses!