Monday, February 25, 2013

Bore me: Teaching through something other than lecture

Imagine this, you are attending a presentation on sexuality, and you see on the agenda that it is a 4 hour lecture only presentation.  Yawn…. followed by stretching.  Who doesn’t tune out once or twice over a marathon lecture?  Even an interesting and intriguing subject such as sexuality can allow your imagination to run away with you after some time.  It can be a challenge to convey messages about sexuality for a number of reasons.  Thankfully, there are alternatives and given that there are, it is unnecessary to reinvent the wheel—this is where media can be employed in education.  This concept, using digital media, has been discussed over and over with multiple sources.  Teaching Sexual Health, a program based in Canada, warns that “it is important to find the right media and to use it effectively to ensure student learning is optimized” (, Digital Media, retrieved Feb. 6, 2013).

Adult learning theory (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005) suggests that sometimes the best way to teach is through others who have already learned and/or mastered the matter at hand, such as peers.  Combining the use of digital media, peer education is at our finger tips due to the age of information.  For example, when teaching parents how to tend to a lesbian, gay, or bisexual parent who has just came out, hearing from another parent who has been through the emotional process can ameliorate this situation.  “Lead with Love” is a film posted online which does exactly this and can be at or  Effective and accurate digital media is an option to break up lecture and add emotion back into the learning process. 

Simple exercises can always follow lecture or digital media.  A quick and popular exercise which is useful with the example above is “Think, Pair, Share.”  In this scenario, attendees will be presented with something to think about, possibly a question or scenario, followed by encouragement to pair with someone else in the audience and then discuss that which crossed their mind.  Depending on the audience and the goal of the presentation, educators can tailor their “Think, Pair, Share” exercise to them. 

Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F. & Swanson, R. A.  (2005).  The Adult Learner, Sixth Edition: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development.  Routledge: New York, NY.

Lead with Love. (2011). Retrieved from on Feb. 25, 2013.

Teaching Sexual Health. (n. d.).  Digital media.  Retrieved from on Feb. 6, 2013.


  1. Nice way to drive home the overall goals of our 626 course. Learning from one's peers is the most effective way to learn. Personal life experience trumps any lecture 10 fold. Even if the students in question do not have any personal experience, using an activity, like role play, would be a perfect way for the students to get into the mindset you are aiming for.

  2. I agree that for many audiences and topics it is important and helpful to incorporate media and other types of interactivities. I also agree that this does help in the learning process most of the time. However, I have two issues with the argument against lectures. The first is that some lectures can be 8 hours long and still hold the audience in rapt attention (i.e. Dr. Kellog's bio class for example). If the instructor is skilled and extremely knowledgeable, this can be a very effective method. The second issue relates to the students' attention span. Sure, kids struggle with attention span but adult learners should be able to attend to the information and take responsibility for their own education no matter how the instructor presents it. I just have an issue with how our educational system has started coddling students and setting 8th grade standards for college students.

  3. I think that what I appreciate the most about our program is that we aren't being lectured to for 18 hours a weekend. Different learning styles are taken into account as well as educational theories that reflect the importance of activities to improve retention. For those of us who may choose to educate adults outside of a college environment or educate a marginalized population, its important to utilize those tools and techniques to meet our population where they are.

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  5. I think it is extremely important to find the "right kind" of media. Could you imagine showing some of the clips that we, as Widener students, were shown in our beginning classes.

    I also like how you mention learning from those who have already mastered the topic. I have always thought guest speakers can dramatically reinforce the topic being talked about. Strong stories full of emotion are definitely more impacting than reading from a book.

  6. Media can be super helpful, even to just enhance a lecture. I've been in classes where it was mostly lecture with a few video clips incorporated in. Just those few minutes helped to keep my attention and reinforce the lecture points.

    I totally agree with Sarah. What media is chosen is vitally important. I have been in classes as well where the clip used was just dropped in. There was no discussion of why or how it applied to the topic of the day. I have also been the teacher in this scenario, where I thought I had connected the dots of how the media applied, but clearly did not do it well. Luckily I had a student who spoke up and asked clarifying questions which allowed me to further spell out how the media clips fit into the topic discussion.