Posts Tagged ‘Competition’

Let’s consider for a moment the problem presented by introducing a new topic to a class via the lecture or teacher presentation/explanation method. This is not a process like memorizing a script and providing an acting performance. It is more like improvisation for which one is familiar with the topic presented. Of course, one prepares by reviewing the material to be explained or presented, but a teacher seldom writes our a script or has a detailed script to work from. A lesson plan at best outlines topics to be presented. Depending on the teacher, it may also involve interaction with the students for which only a limited anticipation for the kinds of questions raised or comments made by students can be planned for, much less scripted. In cases where the teacher has a great deal of experience in the topic, they may indeed be able to anticipate most of what will be said and what questions will be asked. With experience, the teacher can ad hoc discuss/present considerable detail on their subject at hand.

If a teacher is particularly skilled at constructing a compelling story to go along with the topic, they may in fact provide an engaging presentation or lecture. Consider that some presentations are considered so compelling they have been recorded and are sold for subsequent replay because of their quality. These cases, unfortunately, are few and far between. So, is this description a criticism of the current state of teacher prepared presentations? Yes and No. What is being illustrated is a contrast between teacher led lectures and presentations and something students have access to outside the school setting.

Consider the work that goes into the creation of a modern day hour long television drama. If you look at the list of people given credit for the program, you get the idea that it takes many people and lots of equipment. It takes script writers, usually a team of them. At times, it requires content expertise advice to guide the script. It takes people to screen for appropriate and talented actors to act out the script. It takes rehearsals. It takes stage craft crews. It takes people to secure funding for what is likely to cost many thousands of dollars. Because this show will be viewed by thousands of people, they can interest advertisers in sponsoring it in return for their commercials which themselves cost thousands of dollars to prepare. The commercials also require psychologists to advise on the impact of the ad. The students in a class listening to a teacher is aware, if not consciously at least subconsciously, of the contrast between the low cost presentation by the teacher and the high cost presentation of their favorite TV program.

Generally, the teacher can not compete and is it any wonder that given a choice, a student would select even a low budget TV show over a teachers presentation. Furthermore, consider the level of interaction that a student can expect from a lecture. Little to none. If a teacher has 30 students in a class and 60 minutes in a class session, at most, each student can be given 2 minutes of individual attention. So, when it comes to asking questions and getting answers, students better hope someone asks the questions they need answered because odds are, there will be no time for them to get their own question answered. Either the lecture needs to be so good it anticipates everyone’s questions, or the right students are called on to frame questions for the rest of the class. Compare the mental engagement that instant messages and tweets and other modern means of communication with cell phones provide with sitting quietly trying to listen to a lecture prepared with a very low budget by a teacher that has to prepare presentations virtually daily? There is no comparison.

The idea that one teacher in a self-contained classroom can be successful reaching all their students via presentations and lectures given the current competition for attention and the comparative cost of preparing TV programs is just ludicrous. Television, interactive games, cell phones and the instant transmission and receipt of messages have made the teacher made presentations obsolete and the students get that and are turned off by the current educational methodologies. The world has changed but our way of systematic teaching has not. We are in desperate need for some new way to educate our population. Granted, teacher lecture or presentation is not the only thing that goes on in the educational process, but at least this part of it no longer meets the needs of our society, the schools, or the students we are trying to educate. We are in need of a new model.  I wish, in this case, that I knew the answer.