Part of this blogging assignment for class is to relate our chosen educational technique (in my case, lectures, just in case you forgot) to the Common Core Curriculum Standards. A controversial topic in the blogosphere and the internet world at large, I know. However here in Librarian Land, I have gotten a very different message about the Common Core. As far as I can see, the world of burgeoning School Librarians and our educators see the Common Core as a project that is very much in development, and it happens to be one that gives school librarians a lot of very rich opportunities to help teachers. That is going to be my stance on the Common Core for now: let’s see what does work; let’s see what we can do with it, and we’ll continue improving on the parts that are not ideal. That’s how any transformation comes about, right?
So, Common Core stance aside, I am supposed to be talking about lectures and specifically, how this teaching technique can be used to teach inquiry in the context of the Common Core Standards.
I’m going to go ahead an assume that lectures are already used ad nauseum by all teachers everywhere at one time or another. This is the way we’ve already been doing it and it apparently isn’t working very well, so I don’t yet think that it makes sense to focus on using lectures, as we know them, to teach inquiry skills.
What I will do is talk about what the Common Core says about lecturing as a skill.
In his article, “Four things lecture is good for,” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Robert Talbert (2012) says,
…lectures, while effective at “covering material”, are terrible for information transfer from the student’s point of view. There are serious problems with retention and recall of information given in a lecture even if the lecture is rhetorically solid — and this is to say nothing about the disconnect between the length of the average lecture and the average human being’s attention span.
lectures do have their place, and when it makes sense to give one, we should do so with clarity, organization, and rhetorical skill.
I can give you many years worth of anecdotal evidence that lectures are usually a terrible way to absorb information (and I am a person who happens to learn very well from lectures), and on this, most sources I have found are in agreement. However, the Common Core standards has an entire section devoted to developing speaking skills.
The Speaking and Listening section of the English and Language Arts Standards lists a subsection called Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas. If you check out the anchor standards under these section you will see emphasis on the skills that go into building good presentations, from awareness of pace and volume to mastery of formal language and composing a salient argument. If you click through the grade level standards, you can see that the standards begin laying groundwork for lecturing skills early. As early as third grade there are even standards asking kids to start to practice recording and designing multimedia elements of presentations. All the trappings of excellent lecturing are laid out right there in the standards.
Of course speaking and listening skills are useful for more than just lecturing. It is as common for people to take public speaking classes to feel able to give lectures to rooms full of thousands of people, as it is to take them in order to practice being coherent under any kind of pressure. Practicing “lecture” skills can just make you a better communicator in general. The article “Why is Public Speaking Important?” over at WritingCommons.org, does a wonderful job at laying out the myriad benefits of learning to present knowledge and ideas, among them, improving critical thinking and analytical skills, building confidence, and developing leadership skills.
So, at the end of this post that is WAY over word limit, we have the Common Core outlining the importance of developing presentation skills as part of a skills-based education and agreement that public speaking skills are very important, paired with an equally strong agreement that lectures are not the best way to help people learn. Fun, right?
It is fun, because I don’t think these things contradict as much as they may seem to do. Just because I learn to do something well, like lecturing, does not mean I should do that thing all the time. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. I want to be a pony with many, well-developed tricks that I can use when the opportune moment arises.
Join me for the final installment on lectures in two weeks (ish).
Cover image via Flickr user garrettc; used under a Creative Commons license.