Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Are Lectures Passe? Does it Impact your Conference/Educational Programming? (Part 1)

Cartoon at left by Suzy Parker, USA Today
I love Craig Wilson’s “The Final Word” Wednesdays in USA Today.

Craig's column last week was great and offers some insight for association management professionals.

Are class lectures passe? Just ask the guy in the cartoon above.
  • I read the other day that colleges and universities are looking into the idea that lectures, as a style of teaching, should either be abandoned or at least retooled.
  • One professor quoted in this lectures-are-passe article even confessed that just because teachers say something at the front of the classroom doesn't mean students learn. Bless her little academic soul.
  • As for this lecture thing, it appears students today want to be involved. They want to be active, not passive. In short, they don't want to be lectured to. Next thing you know they'll want their own phones. What's happening is that many lectures today can just as easily be delivered over YouTube or iTunes. Lucky students.
I found an article called The Traditional Lecture Might Not Be Dead, But It Is Severely Flawed by Lauren Landry.  Here are some comments that caught my attention.
  • Harvard physics professor Eric Mazur thought he was doing a great job his first six years of teaching. That was, until he discovered his students were only memorizing the formulas he was explaining in class rather than learning how to understand and analyze them. It was then he realized the traditional lecture was flawed, and decided he needed to change his method of teaching.
  •  Now, his 100 or so students sit in small groups discussing a question they see on a screen in front of them. Through a mobile device. Mazur asks them to answer the question that’s been posed, and when he sees all the answers flash on the screen, he pairs the students off and says, “Now defend your reasoning.” In the process of trying to convince one another why they answered the question a certain way, students begin to notice holes in their logic. Mazur then asks the question again, and he starts to see that more of his students have gotten the answer correct.

I also love Jeff Hurt's blogs for Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. He and Dave Lutz post awesome info on annual meeting improvement, association and corporate meetings and education, and the convergence of Web 2.0, social media, meetings, events and education. In Part 2 tomorrow of this blog, I’ll refer to some of Jeff’s writings.

Lectures: In politics, we call them speeches. In church, we call them sermons. In associations, we call them keynoters.

So, what do college lectures have to do with association meetings?

Well, what is the #1 format for educational sessions at your conferences? Seminars? Webinars?

I’m guessing you, like me, would answer “lectures” ... where one person stands before an audience and talks (usually aided by PowerPoints with way too many words) for 45 minutes or more. Right? Perhaps you get creative and offer a panel with four or five “experts” talking for 10-15 minutes each ... that’s still a lecture.

Is it any wonder so many of our attendees are out in the hall “networking?”

How often have you said (or heard your attendees say) well, the best part of the convention is what I learned from other attendees?

And, how much are we paying speakers to lecture to our attendees?

I’ll answer that question and provide more ideas in Part 2 tomorrow.


  1. Great post Steve. I taught 8th grade history as cooperative learning stormed the education system. I was the young teacher doing crazy things.

    The older history teachers told me they could cover more content than I could as I wasted time having students build 3-D maps of the US in teams or trying Columbus for high crimes against humanity using a formal mock trial setting.

    Learning (and teaching) was fun for my students.

    I agree associations could benefit from more participatory learning experiences. One of the challenges will be to find speakers skilled in the processes that support dynamic learning experiences. It takes both design and facilitation skills.

    How do associations find and groom speakers who can do it all?

    Can't wait to read part 2!


  2. Love what you did as a teacher!

    Important for all of us to listen and adapt.

    Nice to see you at Ideas12.