Chapter 4. The Teaching Process

Use of Notes

An instructor who is thoroughly prepared or who has made the presentation before can usually speak effectively without notes. If the lecture has been carefully prepared, and the instructor is completely familiar with the outline, there should be no real difficulty.

Notes used wisely can ensure accuracy, jog the memory, and dispel the fear of forgetting. They are essential for reporting complicated information. For an instructor who tends to ramble, notes are a must because they help keep the lecture on track. The instructor who requires notes should use them sparingly and unobtrusively, but at the same time should make no effort to hide them from the students. Notes may be written legibly or typed, and they should be placed where they can be consulted easily, or held, if the instructor walks about the room. [Figure 4-9]

Formal Versus Informal Lectures

The lecture may be conducted in either a formal or an informal manner. The informal lecture includes active student participation. The primary consideration in the lecture method, as in all other teaching methods, is the achievement of desired learning outcomes. Learning is best achieved if students participate actively in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

Therefore, the use of the informal lecture is encouraged. At the same time, it must be realized that a formal lecture is still to be preferred on some subjects and occasions, such as lectures introducing new subject matter.

The instructor can achieve active student participation in the informal lecture through the use of questions. In this way, the students are encouraged to make contributions that supplement the lecture. The instructor can use questions to determine the experience and background of the students in order to tailor the lecture to their needs, and/or to add variety, stimulate interest, and check student understanding. However, it is the instructorís responsibility to plan, organize, develop, and present the major portion of a lesson.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Lecture

There are a number of advantages to lectures. For example, a lecture is a convenient way to instruct large groups. If necessary, a public address system can be used to amplify the speakerís voice. Lectures can be used to present information that would be difficult for the students to get in other ways, particularly if the students do not have the time required for research, or if they do not have access to reference material. Lectures also can usefully and successfully supplement other teaching devices and methods. A brief introductory lecture can give direction and purpose to a demonstration or prepare students for a discussion by telling them something about the subject matter to be covered.

In a lecture, the instructor can present many ideas in a relatively short time. Facts and ideas that have been logically organized can be concisely presented in rapid sequence. Lecturing is unquestionably the most economical of all teaching methods in terms of the time required to present a given amount of material.

The lecture is particularly suitable for introducing a new subject and for explaining the necessary background information. By using a lecture in this way, the instructor can offer students with varied backgrounds a common understanding of essential principles and facts. Although the lecture method is useful in providing information, it is not an effective method of learning large amounts of information in a short time. Nor do lectures easily allow an instructor to estimate student understanding of the material covered. Within a single period, the instructor may unwittingly present more information than students can absorb, and the lecture method provides no accurate means of checking student progress.

Many instructors find it difficult to hold the attention of all students in a lecture throughout the class period. To achieve desired learning outcomes through the lecture method, an instructor needs considerable skill in speaking.

As indicated in chapter 2, a studentís rate of retention drops off significantly after the first 10-15 minutes of a lecture and improves at the end. The pure lecture format also inhibits student participation. Research has shown that learning is an active processóthe more involved students are in the process, the better they learn. On the other hand, a student needs knowledge in order to build understanding of a subject.

One last disadvantage of the lecture is that it does not foster attainment of certain types of learning outcome, such as motor skills, need to be perfected via hands-on practice. Thus, an instructor who introduces some form of active student participation in the middle of a lecture greatly increases student retention. One way to increase retention during a lecture is to use the discussion method of training delivery.

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