LECTURES

Fifty-minute lectures remain the core teaching method for most undergraduate courses. Their role is best suited to providing an overview of the subject matter and stimulating interest in it, rather than disseminating facts. Lecturing to large classes is a skill which not all staff have acquired and some are not comfortable in this role, and so, where possible, a course organiser is advised to try to spread the lecturing load so as to favour those staff with best skill at it, although freedom of action in this respect is often limited! All students appreciate good quality lectures, and the key ingredients are:

• clear objectives (these can be put in the course handbook, with the lecture summaries, to avoid provision of them being forgotten by individual lecturers);
• clear overhead acetates or slides;
• a paced delivery (the larger the class and/or the more difficult the material the slower this should be);
• appropriate handouts which provide students with complex diagrams or difficult or critical text. This should not be viewed as spoon feeding. It is part of the process of ensuring that students take away the
important elements from a lecture, irrespective of how well the lecture was delivered on the day. Good handouts also help to avoid the communication difficulties which can arise in any lecture where large numbers of students are present.

As class enrolments have risen and lecture theatres are used continuously, ease of access by students to the lecturer at the end of a lecture has been reduced. Providing agreed times and places, as soon as possible thereafter, when they can get questions answered is becoming an important issue.

A more radical approach to the problems of the large ‘performance’ lecture is to consider the extent to which some lectures could be removed entirely and replaced by structured exercises (i.e. resource-based learning). To some degree, those students who do not attend lectures follow this path anyway!

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