16. Transmissive Lectures: Learning by Listening

16.6. Why are Lectures Still the Main Form of Educational Delivery?

Given all of the above, some explanation needs to be offered for the persistence of the lecture into the 21st century. Here are some suggestions:

  • In fact, in many areas of education, the lecture has been replaced, particularly in many elementary or primary schools.
  • Architectural inertia: a huge investment has been made by institutions in facilities that support the lecture model. What is to happen to all that real estate if it is not used? (As Winston Churchill said, ‘We shape our buildings and our buildings shape us‘).
  • In North America, the Carnegie unit of teaching, which is based on a notion of one hour per week of classroom time per credit over a 13 week period. It is easy then to divide a three-credit course into 39 one hour lectures over which the curriculum for the course must be covered. It is on this basis that teaching load and resources are decided.
  • Faculty in post-secondary education has no other model for teaching. This is the model they are used to, and because the appointment is based on training in research or work experience, and not on qualifications in teaching, they have no knowledge of how students learn or confidence or experience in other methods of teaching.
  • Many experts prefer the oral tradition of teaching and learning, because it enhances their status as an expert and source of knowledge; being allowed an hour of other people’s time to hear your ideas without major interruption is very satisfying on a personal level (at least for me when I’m lecturing).
  • See Scenario C at the start of this lesson.