In today's society, there is a growing concern about the way we teach our students. Some argue that the basic lecture is part of the learning process, but others would disagree, saying that students should be learning with a more “active learning” or “problem-posing” approach. Ultimately, the latter approach proves to be more effective in helping students learn because the students are able to truly understand the material and develop their own ideas on a subject.
Lectures are generally taught based on the “banking” style of education. This style is described as more of a style that stuffs information into the student's heads so they can recite it for a test. If students are simply memorizing material for a test without understanding the true significance of it, then teaching them becomes pointless. Paulo Freire states in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize and repeat.” (72). There is a simple solution to this dilemma and it’s known as the “problem-posing” style of education, coined by Freire, which essentially engages the students in the lesson and makes them think for themselves. Freire explains, “The teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration and re-considers her earlier considerations as the students express their own.” (81). When the students are able to develop their own opinion on a topic, that's when teachers can say that they’ve succeeded in teaching the material, because they can grasp the concept and develop their own ideas.
The problem-posing style of education proves to be the more superior way to teach, but there is a certain subject that it cannot teach, and that's the ability to comprehend information. Molly Worthen mentions in her post on the New York Times, “Lecture Me Really”, “In the humanities, there are sound reasons for sticking with the traditional model of the large lecture course combined with small weekly discussion sections. Lectures are essential for teaching the humanities’ most basic skills: comprehension and reasoning, skills whose value extends beyond the classroom to the essential demands of working life and citizenship.”. Worthen does bring up a strong argument, but it still does not justify how teachers abuse the banking model of education in lectures. Focusing on the aspect of actually retaining information, lectures serve as one of the worst ways to teach a student. There may be some special students here and there who actually prefer a lecture hall, but they don’t come up too often. Rebecca Schuman makes a great argument in her article “Professors Shouldn’t Teach to Younger Versions of Themselves”. She expresses, “Many undergraduates learn about Plato—or, more realistically, they zone out during lectures on Plato. Often, they’re zoning out because their professors have planned that lecture for—speaking of Plato—the “ideal” student, the perfect one, the one who does synthesize as he or she learns.”. She recognizes that most students are less likely to pay attention to a lecture about something they don’t want to learn about. Professors nowadays are simply preparing lessons for those students who are able to give 100 percent of their attention to the lecture, take good notes, and retain the information thrown at them with ease. In reality, this “perfect student” is not what the majority of the class is capable of achieving.
In contrast with the banking model of education, active learning (or problem-posing) acts as a means of students teaching themselves in a sense. Andrea Quinlan expresses this in her article “Transcending Convention and Space: Strategies for Fostering Active Learning in Large Post-Secondary Classes.” Quinlan mentions, “Active learning pedagogy moves away from the banking model of education, toward a model that positions the student as an active participant in his or her own learning and development.” If students are able to participate in their own education, they simply get more out of the lesson resulting in a better understanding of the material which leads to better grades. If changing lectures to active learning classrooms helps the grades of the students of today and helps them understand the material more, why don’t schools just incorporate it into the curriculum? Even if schools today can’t afford to create smaller classes for a more active learning environment, there should still be some effort put into lecture halls, pushing towards active learning. In a Stanford University resource page titled “Promoting Active Learning”, the article states, “Whether you’re facing a lecture hall filled with 300 students or a seminar table with 15 students, one of your primary goals for the class should be to actively engage students with the material. Students learn more when they participate in the process of learning, whether it’s through discussion, practice, review, or application.”. Even if it is unrealistic to ditch the lecture altogether and have smaller classrooms made for active learning, there should still be attempts from all teachers in any setting to incorporate active learning into the lesson. This will overall help with the problem of students not being able to understand the material well.
Lectures stuff the mind of a student with information that seems useless to them. If students were able to better understand the material, which would come with active learning/problem-posing education, then grades would rise all around and it would make for a brighter future for them as well. Active learning is essential to opening up the minds of students to better understand the material but lectures are simply taking away that opportunity and it needs to be put to an end.
Image credit to Nathan Dumlao