10 Big Problems With Lecture-Based Learning

by Staff Writers

You don't need a stint as an education major to know that different teaching styles exist out there, each with their own unique sets of strengths and weaknesses. Those predominantly revolving around lecture-based learning are no exception, though an unfortunate number of teachers utilize it as the ultimate classroom strategy. While it undeniably boasts a few valuable advantages — most notably fortified note-taking and memorization skills — the approach isn't exactly ideal for all situations and students. Consider the downsides and different strategies for addressing them before jumping into the lecture-based learning milieu.

  1. It's passive: Probably the main argument levied against lecture-based classroom styles involves how little it truly engages students. Breaking up the monotony with activities like quick papers, question-and-answer sessions, quizzes and others creates a more dynamic learning environment with memorable content. Lectures undeniably have their place in education, but shouldn't be considered the be-all, end-all technique. In subjects conducive to traditional talking structures, there's no reason to completely abandon them. Merely punctuating lectures with something more interactive might be all a teacher really needs to get students learning and retaining knowledge.

  2. It doesn't engage every learning style: Education professionals and students recognize at least four different general learning styles, not all of which benefit from the lecture structure. The most effective classrooms mix up lessons in order to help students with varying strengths and weaknesses soak up content on a more equitable level. Only visual/verbal and auditory/verbal learners get anything out of lectures, so tactile/kinesthetic and visual/nonverbal students end up falling behind. Educators who fear their courses might not completely reach all styles might want to explore different ways to infuse other activities and projects into the syllabus so everyone gets a chance to see lessons in a way that makes sense.

  3. It facilitates rote learning above all else: Lecture-based structures serve as particularly adroit conduits for rote learning and memorization — essential components to a well-rounded education, to be certain, but ones often over-emphasized in contemporary classrooms. Listening to lessons on repeat only works best for some subjects, not all, and its main drawback involves compromising critical thinking skills. Including simple question-and-answer sessions during or after makes for the best tactic to break up some of the monotony and challenge students to truly contemplate the material.

  4. It's biased: One of the most obvious issues with relying largely on lectures involves teacher bias. Most subjects aren't objective, and since the instructor stands as the highest authority in the room, the more rigid, rote structure only presents her or his perspectives on the matters at hand. The most effective educations allows students to consider content from multiple angles and form opinions accordingly, not just perpetually parrot back what teachers spoon-feed into their cranial meats.

  5. It precludes discussion: Instead of a lecture, consider hosting Socratic dialogues. This particular format allows for far more perspectives and discussions than solo lectures, and students have the luxury of critically thinking about the material as a result. Only allowing the teacher a forum to express his or her personal views shuts out all other insights, which leaves students feeling excluded from their own educations.

  6. It's not the right fit for every subject: The arts, maths, and sciences especially benefit from more interactive, hands-on approaches, which is why so many schools require studios and labs in addition to lectures. But even literature, philosophy, and history — three subjects one would expect more talk-based approaches — might not completely rock the lecture-based structure, either. And if they do, a hybrid system engaging multiple learning styles and ideologies nurtures more critical thinking and analysis skills than merely listening. Many schools and teachers consider lecture-based learning a one-size-fits-all (and cost-cutting) approach; unfortunately, they don't always consider whether it works with the content at hand.

  7. Minimal student feedback: If a teacher just stands there talking to the class, there's no real way to fully grasp whether students understand the subject until assignment or test time rolls around. Breaking up classes into discussion groups, Q&As, note-trading sessions, or something similarly interactive and eclectic helps different learners absorb lessons in a more comfortable way, but it also allows them to inquire about anything particularly confusing as well. Too many students asking too many questions might indicate that some things might need tweaking and clarification in future classes. Without such valuable feedback, teachers wouldn't be able to improve their offerings and create the most effective educational spaces possible.

  8. Not every teacher excels at public speaking: This is exactly why they need as much valuable student feedback as they can get! Poor communicators can seriously screw over different learners, even if they typically benefit from traditional lecture structures. It's crucial that teachers understand where their limitations lie when it comes to public speaking, and alter their styles accordingly for maximum educational action. And if it comes to pass that those Toastmasters sessions were all for naught, that might be a sign to jettison the reliance on lectures and try something new.

  9. Not every attention span lasts that long: The average attention span is 10 minutes in university students, say some disconcerting studies, which isn't exactly conducive to most classes. Others posit the number might hover between 15 and 25. Such a limited attention span benefits from the very same variances that promote enhanced engagement, for obvious reasons. They provide all the education of a traditional lecture — if not more — without wasting money on slashing time frames down.

  10. It only nurtures a limited range of skill sets: Perhaps unsurprisingly, the whole thing about lecture-based classes only catering to a few different learning styles also ties into criticisms regarding the limited number of skill sets it strengthens. As a passive format, creativity, critical thinking, analysis, and other more active ingredients in a valuable education receive little attention. Lectures certainly fortify memorization and note taking, but they aren't the only abilities students need to succeed.