Thursday, January 31, 2013

The [Name] Show as Path of Least Resistance

Several times in the past three weeks, I've witnessed Professors or guest lecturers speak for three straight hours.

Does anyone really think the human attention span was built to withstand that?  I know mine was not.

Once upon a time, I actually got certified to teach.  When I put aside the Marxist indoctrination associated with the program, I actually learned something:  Hands-on instructional methods that give students a voice are the right way to do it.  Want to present a case?  How about having a student come 'down to the pit' to play-act the protagonist, rather than just answer questions from the mezzanine?  For a business plan class, why not have students break into groups to actually discuss something and get to know each other?

So what's the wrong way to teach?  Many would answer "lecture."  In some circles, the word itself is a pejorative.  I would add that "facilitator" is only a slight step away (this is the teacher-centric mode that allows for occasional acknowledgement of raised student hands...not 'technically' a lecture).

Ironically, the very Educators teaching Education (emphasis on the Big 'E') didn't practice what they preached.  I don't think most educators anywhere, on ANY level, really practice student-centered lesson plan models.  Here are two major reasons why:
(1) It's easy to just 'stand and deliver.'  It requires far, far less preparation to just stand up, work through your slides, and jawjack than it does to stop and think about more innovative ways to teach.  High school, college, graduate, or whatever...this is just how most education happens because it's the path of least resistance.  The students can 'just sort of sit there' and the Prof. can amuse himself with Billy Madison-esque lines like "this does not make the ribosomes happy."
(2)  For the speaker, it's your chance to the star.  It's the [insert your name here] Show for the Prof. That's hard to give up.  It's well-known that many people fear public speaking, but I'm convinced that among the group that doesn't have this fear, there's a fear of  stopping.

I don't think anyone, anywhere, should speak about anything for three straight hours.  I don't care how well-spoken, how knowledgeable, or how-anything someone is.  That's a long, long time to hear a single voice...and I think any speaker who misses this needs to have their self-awareness equipment adjusted.  

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