Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Signal and Noise in the Lecture Theatre: Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Signal and Noise in the Lecture Theatre: Letters

Article excerpt

In a tone characteristic of many contemporary educationalists when proselytising about their bete noire, Graham Gibbs claims that the lecture is a demonstrably ineffective pedagogic form that in some cases is worse than "no teaching at all" ("The chalk and talk conundrum", Teaching intelligence, 21 November). Gibbs backs up these trenchant and sometimes implausible claims by referring to research that appears to support the enduringly fashionable anti-lecture stance assumed by many educationalists.

The reality, however, is that much published educational research is weak and unreliable. A great deal of it is of suggestive or indicative value only; many of the findings are highly context-specific (for example, relevant only to a particular institution); and studies are frequently of questionable quality (with low sample sizes, unclear outcome measures and lack of controls). This is not to criticise those who conduct such research: it is inherently difficult to discern signal from noise when researching pedagogy because of the vast and omnipresent number of potentially confounding variables. However, this work cannot reasonably be taken to support dogmatic and simplistic claims about the effectiveness or otherwise of any pedagogic approach, including the much maligned lecture. …

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