Advantages and Disadvantages of Lecturing

Strategies for More Effective Lectures

Rear view of a high school teacher giving a lecture.
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Lecturing is an old-fashioned instructional method of delivering information verbally. This model represents an oral tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. The term lecture came into use during the 14th century as a verb meaning "to read or deliver formal discourses." The person presenting a lecture during this time was often called a reader because they recited information from a book to students that recorded it verbatim.

There are many pros and cons of lecturing that cause much debate over whether this strategy should still be used today. Learn whether lecturing fits into the modern classroom and if it does, how.

What Is a Lecture?

During a typical lecture, an instructor stands before their class and presents information to students. Lecturing can go on for any amount of time on any topic. They are versatile in that sense but quite limited in others.

The negative reputation of lectures can be attributed to their non-transactional nature—they do not tend to allow for much discussion or other forms of student involvement. Lectures simply offer a way for teachers to carefully execute their teaching according to a precise plan. They do not assess learning, offer varied perspectives, differentiate instruction, or allow students to self-direct.

Lecturing Today

Because their disadvantages are now widely discussed, many wonder whether lectures still have a place in the modern teaching landscape. The answer is plain and simple: traditional lectures do not. There are a number of factors that contribute to a lecture's success, but lecturing is ultimately an outdated form of instructional delivery that does not benefit students.

Read about the advantages and disadvantages of traditional lecturing to understand why this teaching approach is in need of a remodel.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Lecturing

Lecturing, in the most traditional sense, holds more cons than pros.

Pros

Traditional lecturing offers a few distinct advantages that other teaching methods do not. Lectures are beneficial for these reasons.

  • Lectures are straightforward. Lectures allow teachers to deliver information to students as planned. This gives great control over what is taught and lets teachers be the sole source of information to avoid confusion.
  • Lectures are efficient. A well-rehearsed lecture can be presented quickly and planned ahead of time to fit into a certain schedule.
  • Lectures can be pre-recorded and recycled. Many teachers record their lectures ahead of time and even show lectures given by others. Khan academy videos and TED talks are examples of common educational lectures available to the public

Cons

There are many drawbacks to lecturing that make it nonideal. The following list includes disadvantageous features of traditional lectures.

  • Lectures are very taxing for students. In order for a student to get as much as possible from a lecture, they must take detailed notes. This skill must be taught and takes a lot of time to master. Most students don't know what they should take away from lectures and do not successfully learn material.
  • Lectures are not engaging. Lectures are often long and monotonous, making it difficult for even the most dedicated students to engage. They cause students to quickly grow bored and tune out and they also don't leave room for questions, making confused students even more likely to shut down.
  • Lectures are teacher-centered. They do not bring students into the conversation to ask questions, debate ideas, or share valuable personal experiences. Lectures are built on a teacher's agenda only with almost no student inquiry or contribution. In addition, a teacher has no way of telling whether students are learning.
  • Lectures do not accommodate individual needs. Lectures allow for little to no differentiation. They follow a specific format of delivery that does not account for learning disabilities or other needs. Lectures leave many students feeling frustrated and confused.
  • Lectures cause students to rely on their teachers. The one-sided format of lectures often leads students to develop a dependency on their teachers. Students accustomed to lectures lack self-directed learning skills and are unable to teach themselves. This fails them because teaching students to learn is the very purpose of education in the first place.

How to Plan an Effective Lecture

Though standard lecturing has more or less become obsolete, that doesn't mean that lecturing can't be made more effective. With the help of technological advances and the latest, most productive teaching strategies, lectures can be revamped into much more meaningful teaching and learning experiences.

As with any other teaching practice in an instructional arsenal, teachers should exercise discretion and selectivity when deciding whether to lecture. After all, lecturing is only one tool out of many. For these reasons, lecturing should be used in moderation only when it is more appropriate than any other teaching method. To create the most effective lecture possible, keep these tips in mind.

Be Flexible

Lectures need to have a little wiggle room. Organization is critical but a well-planned lecture is only successful as long as it stays completely on track. Because of this, instructors must plan for any scenario and be open-minded when it comes time to lecture. If a student says or does something that changes your plans, go with it. Practice responsive teaching by listening to what your students are saying and adjusting to meet their needs in the moment.

Set Goals

Before a lecture even begins, decide exactly what it should accomplish. This is the case for any lesson and lectures are no exception. Set learning goals for a lecture outlining skills and knowledge that students should have when you are finished. With clear, action-directed goals in place, you don't have to worry if your lecture veers a little off-track. Let it go where it needs to go and use learning goals you've set to direct instruction no matter where a lecture ends up.

Build in Assessments

Once you've planned standards-aligned, highly specific learning targets, take the time to decide how you will check a student's progression toward them. You should have a way of determining whether each and every student is grasping the material you have delivered and a plan for following up with those that do not. A lecture, like any lesson, should not begin and end in a single day. Review what you have taught often and build lectures seamlessly into your curriculum for best results.

Plan Dynamic Lectures

A lecture should not bore your students. Incorporate multi-media learning experiences, visuals, activities, and educational games into your lecturing to maintain student interest and make your instruction more accessible. Make your students feel excited about what you are teaching and they will be more likely to learn. Additionally, always supplement your lecturing with guided and independent practice to let students try what you have taught for themselves. If you neglect to do this, your students might not understand a concept no matter how interesting your lecture was.

Provide Supports

One of the biggest flaws in the format of a traditional lecture is that it expects too much of students without supporting them at all. Note-taking is an especially demanding task. Teach your students to successfully take notes so that they don't spend each lecture stressing about recording every word you say and provide graphic organizers for them to take notes on. Finally, scaffold your instruction so that every student—regardless of background knowledge, learning disabilities, etc.—has a way to access information.