College students' perceptions of the traditional lecture method

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Author: Amy E. Covill
Date: Mar. 2011
From: College Student Journal(Vol. 45, Issue 1)
Publisher: Project Innovation Austin LLC
Document Type: Report
Length: 4,345 words
Lexile Measure: 1350L

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Fifty-one college students responded to survey questions regarding their perceptions of the traditional lecture method of instruction that they received in a 200-level psychology course. At a time when many professors are being encouraged to use active learning methods instead of lectures, it is important to consider the students' perspective. Do students have the kind of negative perceptions of the lecture method held by many educators? Results suggest that students' perceptions contrast with educators' beliefs. Students in a lecture-style class report learning a great deal, being involved in the learning process, and engaging in independent thinking and problem solving.


Many educators believe that the traditional lecture approach to teaching is ineffective compared to active learning methods (Marbach-Ad, Seal, & Sokolove, 2001; Jungst, Licklider, & Wiersema, 2003). Methods that promote active learning by students are based on the constructivist view that, for meaningful learning to occur, students must actively engage with the to-be-learned subject-matter through such activities as discussion, hands-on activities, and problem solving. According to proponents of the use of active learning methods, one main weakness of the lecture method is that it allows students to be passive recipients of information that has been "predigested" by the professor (Hansen & Stephens, 2000, p. 42). Thus, students become dependent on the professor to tell them what they need to know and can avoid taking responsibility for their own learning (Machemer & Crawford, 2007). Further, students accustomed to being passive have a "low tolerance for challenge" (Hansen & Stephens, 2000, p. 46). Finally, according to active learning activists, learning as a result of lectures is relatively superficial and transient (Phipps, Phipps, Kask, & Higgens, 2001; Moust, Van Berkel, & Schmidt, 2005).

Thus, teachers, including college professors, are chastised for clinging to traditional lecture approaches and are simply told to adopt approaches that make students responsible for their own learning through discussion, problem solving, and discovery. Usually, this recommendation is made without qualification: that is, teaching for active learning is presented as the best approach regardless of class size, subject matter, characteristics of the learners involved, and the culture of the learning institution.

The recommendation to use active methods is made even though research is mixed as to the effectiveness of these methods. Some research suggests that, compared to the lecture method, methods that promote active learning increase student achievement (O' Sullivan & Copper, 2003; Christianson & Fisher, 1999), student participation (McClanahan & McClanahan, 2002), and retention of concepts over time (Berry, 2008). Other research indicates that the lecture method is superior (Struyven, Dochy, & Janssens, 2008), or at least comparable (Van Dijk, Van Den Berg, & Van Keulen, 2001), based on several assessments, including student learning. It may be that the lecture method is effective for teachers who lecture well, and active methods are effective for teachers who are adept at developing meaningful in-class activities. For example, some researchers caution that for active methods to be effective, teachers must provide significant guidance and structure: students left to their own explorations of...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A252632760