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Summary: Lectures and Classroom Teaching

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What do we mean by lectures and classroom teaching?

Lectures typically involve a member of academic staff talking to a class on a given topic or topics. Students will usually sit listening taking class notes as the tutor works through a presentation or talk relating to the subject. Lectures may involve the introduction and exploration of key concepts and theories relating to a topic, presentation of data or presentations by guest speakers.

In our definition, other classroom teaching may be more participative but will still involve a large degree of tutor input and direction. Examples of classroom teaching fitting these criteria might be larger seminars, sports coaching lessons or a taught laboratory sessions on a science-based course.  

Benefits of lectures and classroom teaching

Lectures and classroom teaching is claimed to have some quite specific benefits to university students (and to tutors). These include:

  • Large amounts of material can be presented reasonably quickly to large numbers of students.
  • They can be specifically focussed on a particular audience or topic.
  • Tutors can model certain behaviours and a joy of a topic.
  • They appeal to those who prefer to learn by listening or find interactive sessions more challenging.
  • Developing a student’s note-taking and listening skills.
  • Exposing students to the input of external specialists or experts.
  • Tutors are able to control the learning experience.

Concerns and issues with lectures and classroom teaching

Students may face difficulties in lectures and classroom teaching in a number of ways:

  • They can fail to provide tutors with feedback on the extent of student learning.
  • Attention spans wane quickly in passive environments.
  • Students learn at different paces and have different levels of understanding.
  • Lectures do not support application, analysis, synthesis, or evaluation.
  • Many students prefer more active learning styles.
  • Access to the venue and the materials may be a challenge for some students.

Points for reflection

  • How does your practice support the needs of students with regard to lectures, seminars and other taught sessions?
  • What are the main barriers to you accommodating students’ needs with regard to lectures, seminars and other taught sessions? How can these be overcome?
  • What changes to teaching and learning strategies could be made in these situations? How might you do things differently?
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