In the essay, “College Lectures: Is anybody Listening?,” written by David Daniels, he suggests that college lecture classes should be replaced by classes that provide more of an active learning environment. He also points out that the lecture system is outdated, because it originated from the fact that, formerly, people couldn’t afford to buy books. He explains how the large number of students in one lecture hall makes student-instructor interaction more difficult than it should be. He illustrates how this is particularly true for students attending college in their first year, because those students are not yet equipped with the tools to succeed in a lecture style course. He feels that this is the time when students need to be nurtured and have a more hands on experience in order to learn effectively. He talks about how the students become bored during lectures, not paying attention, and drifting off into space. Based on my own experience and observations, I agree with Daniels. First I agree with Daniels that lecture classes are not an effective way of learning.
Throughout the years, I found that I learn better by getting involved with classmates in group projects, writing research papers, or doing some sort of in-class assignment that assisted me in better learning the material. From the beginning of my academic career I was taught in an active learning environment. My biology class is an excellent example. The instructor could have stood at the front of the class and talked all day about how to dissect a frog, but the only way it was really going to have an impact in my learning was to actually pick up the scalpel and forceps and cut into it myself. Only then could I better understand what the instructor had been trying to teach all along, which was what the internal organs looked like, and how they functioned. It’s very similar with all my English classes that I have taken. The instructor could stand at the front of the class and talk about sentence structure, and punctuation, or how to write a thesis of an essay, but until I was able to put it to work myself, it would not have made much sense.
In order for me to learn effectively, I have to have some sort of hands on experience. Second, there are no lecture classes in high school, and because of this I believe high school should be designed to prepare students for lecture classes, in general, that are based more on reflective learning. This is especially true since these are the types of classes a first year college student will attend. Does it make sense that a first year college student be expected to do well in a lecture class that is based on reflective learning, when the student has spent their whole academic career learning in an active learning environment? I understand that each person has their own learning style; however, say for example that someone is, part reflective observation learner (watching), and part active experimentation learner (doing). This person does not learn best by solely watching, as in a lecture setting, so a lecture hall atmosphere is going to be a challenge even for them.
Another problem is that lecture classes have far too many students crammed into one class. From my own experience in a psychology 101 lecture class that I took, there were so many students that there was hardly any time to interact with the instructor. Being able to interact with my instructor is something that I feel is crucial in order for me to learn effectively. It is important for me, as a student, to be able to ask questions and receive feedback. Even if there was a brief minute to ask a question I had, it was extremely overwhelming to speak up in such a large crowd. If I waited until the class was over, I was faced with a line of people and only a few short minutes to get to my next class. If I was confused, I stayed confused. There were also many distractions that made it difficult to focus and digest information. Students having side conversations, or people getting up and down to go to the restroom. The class size had a considerable impact on my ability to learn successfully. Note taking was an issue for me as well. Of course, like any class, there would be a test on the material that I had learned prior. As I sat there listening to the instructor talk, I frantically tried writing down everything the instructor had said, not sure of what was actually important. Often times I had felt overwhelmed with the continuous stream of information, I found myself having a hard time concentrating. Later, when it was time for me to study for the test, my notes were so scrambled that they were almost of no benefit to me at all.
There were no homework assignments required to help me learn more efficiently, and I wasn’t sure what needed to be memorized for the test. I had spent hours reading through the book, trying to memorize anything I thought might have been important. At the end of the first week, when I received my first test, I realized that I had not studied the right material at all. It was frustrating. I felt that I was not going to do well in college, so I dropped out feeling discouraged. There was a definite issue with my ability to take notes as a first year college student, and I did not have the skills to study effectively either. Lecture classes are not an effective way of learning, but they are not going away anytime soon. If students were educated in a reflective environment earlier in their education, I believe that it would not be as much of a challenge for them to adapt. Students wouldn’t get discouraged, and more of them would be apt to succeed. If students were more aware of the demands of lecture classes, before they signed up for them in their first year of college, then maybe they could find a class that’s more compatible with their learning style. I know, at least from my own experience, that this is true. Knowing what I know now about my own learning style, and my need to have hands on experience, I will definitely take classes with formats that suit my needs to enable me to be successful.