Kenneth J. Dunn
In the film The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins delivered a remarkably focused and horrifying portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, the criminal genius who cannibalized his victims. Somewhat analogous is the way many higher education professors, including myself, have devoured or blocked student thinking ability by lecturing for hours on end, sometimes from old notes we had prepared.
Indeed, college students enjoy telling the decades-old story of the renowned professor of anthropology at a leading university who was so in demand around the world that he resorted to tape recording his lectures for his classes; a student assistant would dutifully play them at the right time and his students signed in for each session. One day, his travel schedule permitted him to visit his reduced-teaching-load class. There he found tape recorders absorbing his lecture in each of the 38 seats. Listening, taking notes, and then responding to test questions could hardly be described as active learning.
I’m certain that most of us in higher education have started moving toward aiding students in accepting the burden of learning and teaching at much higher levels of brain activity. There are many successful strategies that you may have tried, but I’d like to share five techniques that have worked very well for me in teaching advanced courses in administration and supervision. They involve students in the direct participation in, and practice of, what they need to learn, apply, and evaluate. Further, the brain receptors of tactual, kinesthetic, oral, and visual communication are engaged; not just the passive-auditory mode. Only 20 to 22 percent of adults learn best by listening and can remember only 75 percent of what is taught through the lecture method.