Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Benefits of a Classroom Lecture

I can't tell you how many times I have heard educational gurus say that students do not learn from lectures. Granted, in a history classroom lectures need to be balanced with close analysis of primary documents and other lessons in historical thinking, but I have always found lectures to be an effective means of delivering content.

I believe we have discussed this before here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. See here and here.

Over at Brainstorm, Mark Bauerlein calls our attention to a new study that suggests students who listen to lectures do better on standardized tests.  Here is a taste:

“Contrary to contemporary pedagogical thinking, we find that students score higher on standardized tests in the subject in which their teachers spent more time on lecture-style presentations than in the subject in which the teacehr devoted more time to problem-solving activities.”

It wasn’t a large difference–one percent of a standard deviation–but the difference went up when the authors stuck to students who had, the authors write, “the exact same peers in both their math and science classes.  Among this group of students, a shift of 10 percentage points of time from problem solving to lecturing is associated with an increase in test scores of almost 4 percent of a standard deviation–or between one and two months’ worth of learning in a typical school year.”

The authors guard against drawing too firm a conclusion from this study, noting, for instance, that TIMSS emphasized factual knowledge, while other tests, such as PISA, emphasize problem solving.  But a softer conclusion they offer with confidence:

“The results suggest that traditional lecture-style teachign in U.S. middle schools is less of a problem than is often believed.”