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The Classroom Lecture Must Go Away

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

For decades educators have known classroom lectures must go away. Why?

Lecture Based Learning

Responding to a question about the advantages of lectures, here was one, well-represented reply:

"Lectures can present large amounts of information. Lectures can be presented to large audiences. Lecturers can model how professionals work through disciplinary questions or problems. Lectures allow the instructor maximum control of the learning experience." (

Really? These are disadvantages. Not advantages. Why would we want a lecturer in control of learning? It is the student who is learning. The teacher is there for the benefit of the student, not the other way around. They are not there to simply tell everyone what they know in the most convenient way possible for them.

Teaching methods should be employed because of their effectiveness, not convenience. The idea of a teacher-controlled learning experience is a fallacy in reason. A teacher cannot control the learning experience because it is the students who experience learning, and that experience will differ for each one. What the teacher controls is the teaching experience. And frankly, why should that matter in this discussion?

How Much Do Students Learn from Lectures?

A new study found that undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 150% more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods. (Lectures aren't just boring, they're Ineffective, too, study finds | Science

And notice, that the data was not taken from high school or younger. This data was from college-level students where we would expect motivation to be significantly higher on average than at a typical public school.

Facts of Teachers Lecturing Students

In a study on recall after listening to a seminar, students forgot more than 90% of the points from the lecture after 14 days. (Jul 20, 2015, Why Straight-A Students Haven't Learned As Much As You Think › informed › features)

In this instance, the research concerns the most motivated students and professionals, often the brightest in a field of study because the results were formed from a seminar, not a classroom.

We should expect the best outcome because those who attend typically have a special interest in the subject, may be paying a fee, and are likely to have a bank of previous knowledge. And even more depressing to the lecturer, this research was carried out after only 14 days.

  • What will it be next year?

  • Will most remember they were at the seminar?

Other studies have reported a 98% information loss after just 30 days. It would not be very difficult to predict results from studies like this if taken from a typical classroom environment in which students listen to six distinct lectures of 30 minutes or more each day, five days a week....for 9 months.

  • What level of memory would that generate after 30 days?

There is endless research on the issue of lecture and memory. Considering the volume of research and the years over which it has been conducted, it should surprise us that lecture remains so prevalent in the classroom.

Do Students Learn Better From Their Peers?

Some use a Socratic method, asking questions as a learning process. That's a good start, better than a lecture to be sure.

But in many classroom environments, the responses are limited to those courageous enough to share at some length in front of 30 of their peers. In many classes that would be zero. At least the teacher using questions as part of the process recognizes the problem and tries to do something about it.

Statistics of Students Remembering What Was Taught

Here's a simple quiz: What method of teaching, or rather learning, would best prepare students for the future?

  1. Lecture. Students recall 2%

  2. Reading. Students recall 10%

  3. Watching: Students recall 30%

  4. Participative Discussion: Students recall 70%

  5. Experience: Students recall 80%

  6. Students Teaching Students (collaboration): Students recall 95%

The first observation we can make is obvious, the more engaged the student, the better the information retention. That's because memory is bound tightly to experience. We all know that.

Second, while the question sounds somewhat rhetorical, it is more of a trick question. That's because the answer is "all of numbers 2 through 6".

If we will engage today's students and ignite a passion for learning, we must employ a process for the students of today, not yesterday. Learning systems for today must be designed with the mindset that each of these five methods is used interdependently. None stands alone. They must be woven together like a tapestry into one, seamless learning process.

I am not suggesting lectures should be 100% out. 97% out is probably okay. Unfortunately, pulling all these together for a singular process to engage students in learning is not possible in our current educational system.

5 Reasons Lectures Have Low Effectiveness

It seems today's public school teachers are caught in no-man's land. They face a set of insurmountable obstacles to help boost student learning rates.

  1. Teachers are bound to a standardized curriculum they must teach to a general population, of which only a few students care about what they are teaching.

  2. The stress of teaching a large volume of material each week because the pace of information transmission is determined by the state.

  3. Coping with large classroom populations. Public school classrooms, both state and charter, average 25-35 students. So teachers address upwards of 180 students every day, sometimes over 200.

  4. Not possible to give anyone personal attention.

  5. Forced to teach with methods that do not connect with the vast majority of students.

Therefore, in the present system of education lectures are almost the only way for teachers to dispense all the information to a large the number of students in the time permitted. But as we have seen, almost no one learns well from lectures.

Why Standardized Testing is Bad

The goal of all this effort is that teachers must teach to a standardized test. That means everyone crams just before the test. Although we call it 'review'. Cramming is the worst of all methods for learning.

So, why do they teach to the test?

Because the system judges and rates teachers, schools, and school districts based on their students' test results.

In the end, teachers are being set up for failure. No wonder we are suffering the worst teacher shortage we've known in many years.

The medical community is well aware of these problems in education. I'm extremely glad my surgeon had years of practice alongside another surgeon who had many more years of practice before he stood over me on the operating table.

Maybe you've seen the commercial in which a patient is being prepped for surgery, and then her surgeon walks into the room. She asked him, "Doctor, are you the best?"

The nurse put the mask on the patient's face and just then, her eyes widened when he answered, "I'm okay". I can't remember what they were selling.

But the punch line made me groan...and laugh. We can all be thankful that the practice of medicine does not limit education to lectures, reading, and watching.

This idea of more experiential education isn't limited to medicine.

The trades such as electrical and plumbing require up to four years of school and concurrent experience to receive a journeyman's license. Why don't we do that with all forms of education?

Clearly, lectures must go away and begin to play a minimal role in education. Perhaps it was effective a hundred years ago. But in case it has escaped the bureaucrats' notice, we have changed, students have changed and as a result, educational needs are vastly different.

What is Personalized Learning?

The alternative to what we now have in public education is a complete re-envisioning of education, incorporating personalized learning concepts to engage today's students so we can once again educate effectively.

Gladly, a growing movement doing just that is taking hold around the U.S. In a later post, I plan to describe how schools and universities around the country are implementing personalized learning and making the effort to change the way students are engaged in the learning process.

Why Paradigm Learning Microschools?

Since its inception, Paradigm Learning Microschools has been at the cutting edge in these changes:

  • 5:1 student/teacher ratio

  • Student Profiles allow each student to learn the way they prefer and learn the best

  • Competency-based learning

  • Elimination of the A-F grading system

  • Students work at their own pace

  • The curriculum is designed and implemented for each student individually

  • Learning applied to specific areas of interest

  • Individual student attention and collaboration

These are some of the marks of innovation in education.

At Paradigm Learning, we do not employ lectures. It is gone. Each of the remaining five areas are woven together to create a more holistic, engaging, learning process.

In this context, we will never find 'reading' as a stand-alone exercise. Instead, it is in concert with watching, discussing, experiencing, and collaborating. The result achieves both mastery and competency. Learning is centered on students, not teachers.

Students learn how to learn. They are engaged in the overall process through a concept called "Voice and Choice". Taken together, Personalized Learning will encourage and help each student have a shot at becoming passionate and engaged lifelong learners.

All of this must be if the students of today will succeed now and flourish in the future.

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