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2. Learning Through the Lecture

Someone has defined lecture as a process by which information goes from the notes of a teacher to the notes of a student without having gone through the head of either! Such digs are offered only partly in jest. The lecture has suffered in recent years from attacks by critics and lack of response by students, but most of all, from misuse by teachers.

Is any teaching method absolutely better than the others? Probably not. The variable factors mentioned in the introduction (if you skipped it, please go back and read it now) make it a relative value choice each time. The lecture method is not inherently bad. Misuse rather than use is the culprit.

Originally, a professor’s lectures consisted of reading from the textbooks while the students took copious notes. The term itself comes from the Latin word legere (“to read”). Lecturing is simply a process of teaching in which an instructor gives an oral presentation of facts or concept . The procedure involves the clarification or explanation of some major idea which has been formed into a question or a problem.

The lecture technique has three basic aims. The first and most important is the communication of information. With the knowledge explosion of our day, students in any educational situation lack enormous amounts of information. There is relatively little time for them to get it inductively, so an overview of the subject matter is presented through the lecture.

Along with this knowledge aim however, there is also a comprehension aim A good lecturer seeks to interpret and clarify facts which he has presented or which have been learned inductively by the students, perhaps in advance of class.

Still a third goal is the structuring of material. The necessity of organization and logic in the lecture is apparent. Students unfamiliar with certain material may discover that the best preliminary exposure available to them is an enthusiastic overview presented by a teacher who has mastered the content and is able to communicate it in a lucid and interesting manner.

Values of the Lecture Method

A good lecture may cover the most material in the least amount of time. Given the proper audio equipment, it lends itself to groups of almost any size and can be handled with a minimum mastery of material on the part of the lecturer.

For example, one does not have to be an Old Testament scholar to present a fairly comprehensive lecture on Psalm 23. Obviously since the total context of that psalm is the entire Bible, one would be a better lecturer if he had competence in all of the Old Testament Scriptures, but such competence is not necessary.

In a lecturing situation the class is likely to stay centered on the subject matter at hand. The teacher is always in charge of the content, and relevant information about the lesson can be clarified and codified.

Lecture is a significant supplement to the printed page. As a college professor clarifies elements in the subject matter which confused the student who read his assignment before coming to class, so the Sunday School teacher explains and applies materials from the lesson manual or the Bible itself.

The good lecturer can also adapt to the needs, interests, abilities, and previous knowledge of his students. He can tie his information into contemporary issues and use realistic illustrations to make the lecture attractive. Such a lecture tends to channel the thinking of all students in a prescribed direction and can be organized either in the logical pattern of subject content or the psychological approach of interest-catching structure.

Problems of the Lecture Method

Unfortunately when misused, as it often is, a lecture can be boring. Any monological approach to the communication of information tends to lead even the best teacher into a rut. An overemphasis on one-way communication also violates some of the basic principles of teaching such as involvement and the motivation of group participation.

Some elements of learning such as attitudes, skills, and feelings are not best learned through “telling” procedures. The lecture can often encourage only the retention of facts as an end itself. What we really need is a translation of biblical information into the life of the student.

Successive use of lecturing tends to encourage acceptance of the teacher as the final authority for truth. This has both theological and pedagogical drawbacks. Theologically it detracts from the supremacy of Scripture as the only rule of faith and practice. The Bible is the authority; the teacher is only the agent through whom that authority is communicated.

Pedagogically, transmissive teaching tends to stifle creativity and initiative on the part of the student. There may be very little provision for individual differences, and students’ questions often go unanswered. Lecturing often gives a class little opportunity for problem-solving activities and may encourage a passive type of learning.

Communication theorists have told us that feedback is absolutely essential for the completion of the communication cycle. Unless the lecturer is skillfull at reading nonverbal feedback or builds in some kind of verbal feedback as a support methodology for his lecturing, he will have great difficulty discerning student reaction and therefore accurately programming his continuing remarks.

Principles of Effective Lecturing

Here are eight simple ways in which you can improve your teaching if you use the lecture method. Many teachers of adults find themselves making good use of the lecture method. Try some of these suggestions to enhance the value of what can be a valid approach to teaching.

Combine the lecture with audience involvement methods such as discussion, reaction groups, or a question and answer period. This allows for feedback and gives the lecturer opportunity to clarify any concepts which might not have been understood by his audience.

Support the, lecture with visuals such as the chalkboard, overhead projector, or charts of various kinds. Often these things are simple and inexpensive to make and yet can increase learning measurably.

Have a clear and simple outline for the lecture. Some of the basic rules of homiletics (the art and science of preaching) apply to lecturing as a teaching method. Progressive organization, a clear-cut introduction and conclusion, and parallelism in the outline points will help to make the lecture a better tool for communicating truth.

Practice good principles of speaking such as eye contact, voice inflection, and proper posture.

Emphasize the important points. This may be done as part of the outline itself, but it is often helpful to make an extra effort to insure that students have understood the crucial points of any Bible lesson.

Use interesting illustrations. Illustrations are stories or quotations which “let in the light.” They should not be overused, but in proper balance they are a necessary ingredient in the lecture recipe. When a point is otherwise difficult to understand, an illustration should be applied to let students see how that particular concept applies in a real life situation.

Specify clear objectives for the lecture. Actually this is a principle of all good teaching regardless of the methodology. But if you really understand what you want your students to learn as a result of your lecture, you will be able to teach for that goal and come closer to accomplishing the learning objectives. Wasn’t it Socrates who said, “We have a much better chance of hitting the target if we can see it”?

Give your students a mimeographed outline or guide to follow while you are lecturing. This is not a manuscript. As a matter of fact, the outline should be just detailed enough to enable them to see how you are proceeding in the presentation of the material, but empty enough so that they can take notes during the lecture.

Some students were asked what they liked in lecturers. They listed a sense of humor, a conversational tone, a genuine interest in students, and understandable terminology Certainly these things can help us be better lecturers.

Related Topics: Teaching the Bible