Thursday, January 7, 2010

Discovery Good, Lecture Good, Too

Lecture doesn't have to be a dirty 7-letter word. One of the things we are learning about education is that we do not know what we think we know. See the new research on learning styles. Another surprise: lecture is not necessarily bad. Check out this powerful lecture method.

Sometimes lecture is not only the most effective but also the preferred medium. Honestly, has anyone else sat through a three-hour “hands-on” professional development workshop, only to walk out wishing the presenter had lectured the material and saved everyone two and a half hours. We could have gotten some serious grading done.

TED:Ideas Worth Spreading relies on lectures with a strict twenty-minute limit. Some of the most effective talks last less than five minutes. It stands to reason that direct instruction, a time-honored method, has to work. It is fashionable to deride lecture as the tool of choice for control freaks. Nobody sees the TED presenters as domineering.

Why do people persist in framing every issue as a polar dichotomy? Left-right, phonics-whole language, direct instruction-constructivism. Dichotomies close down possibilities that are more likely to lead to effective strategies. With phonics-whole language, the common sense approach turns out to be the best. Phonics is a powerful tool for decoding the words students need to comprehend and derive the maximum benefits of whole language.

Likewise, when researchers compare direct instruction with constructivism, direct instruction generally gets the nod. When adults are the audience, direct instruction usually means old-fashioned lecture. Few classrooms actually exhibit a separation between direct instruction and constructivism. Most teachers blend both approaches every day for maximum effective learning.

For more Power Teaching videos, search "power teaching" in the YouTube search window. Notice how well prepared the teacher is. He has written everything on the board before he began. I tried out the technique this past summer in a "Finance 4 Kids" class with mixed results, probably because I need more practice. The students were receptive and active. Here is a less intense example of Power Teaching, also known as “whole brain teaching.”

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