“some have even claimed lectures are as bad for learning as smoking is for health.”

Among other questions, our April article Mobile Technology in the Classroom Debate: New Findings looked at whether banning mobiles in schools improves student performance. Now the University of Adelaide has announced an alternative approach to improving student performance. i.e. banning lectures.

A July 3, 2015 article in The Conversation asks  Will the University of Adelaide’s lecture phase-out be a flop?, noting that “If the lectures Adelaide is ditching are monologues without any interactivity, then video is probably going to be a good replacement. Decades of research suggest this is not a great use of precious face-to-face time; some have even claimed lectures are as bad for learning as smoking is for health.” The article notes that research is beginning to support the “flipped classroom” approach, where students attend the lectures at home, at their own pace, “while problems, questions and other activities that require socialising and interaction take place in the presence of the teacher.”

The author is Phillip Dawson, Associate Professor and Associate Director, Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning at Deakin University, who favours the “flipped classroom” but cautions against a total ban on lectures. Philip notes that “The anti-lecture evidence actually just supports good lecturing practice: require students to spend at least 10% of the lecture discussing or problem solving.” He is upbeat about the flipped classroom helping  students to “develop a sense of autonomy, feel competent, and get connected with other students. Developing these attributes should lead to improved motivation” but with the caveat “However, this connection between flipped classrooms and motivation remains at best a theoretically informed hunch.”

However, some recent Michigan State University research could indicate that the connection between flipped classrooms and motivation is more than a theoretically informed hunch.“Social-networking sites such as Facebook can help students learn scientific literacy and other complex subjects that often receive short shrift in today’s time-strapped classrooms.” This quote is from a 29 June 2015 ScienceDaily article, Is Facebook the next frontier for online learning? which reports on research findings by the University’s Christine Greenhow that “high school and college students engaged in vigorous, intelligent debate about scientific issues in a voluntary Facebook forum.”  This approach could also connect students with “professionals and experts in the field, spur interest in careers and inspire civic engagement.”

The ScienceDaily article gives details of the research study and concludes with a quote from Christine Greenhow:

“While any social network site can be misused, there’s also a significant and underexplored opportunity to develop these spaces as forums for learning, healthy academic debate and career development.”